It is very easy for us to indulge in a lot of navel-gazing and introspection. We seem to be continually facing changes and some of those not very well thought through.
The pace of change has also been rapid, particularly recently, as we cope with a multitude of reviews, regulatory changes and quite a lot of input from the Government. It is sometimes helpful to note that we are not alone.
I found a kindred spirit in the unlikely form of a taxi driver who was driving me home one night.
He opened the conversation by asking me what I thought of Ken Livingstone and proceeded to let me know in no uncertain terms that, in spite of having voted for him as mayor, he had very little time for him now. He was bemoaning the changes to the fee structure of taxis.
I said to him that from the point of view of the consumer, I was finding that, particularly late at night, it was much easier to get a taxi. I had spoken to another taxi driver and I understood that this was because the cost of the fare has gone up and this meant that it was more attractive for cabs to be working in the evening and so there were more available for consumers.
Ah, said my taxi driver, do not be fooled by that. The reason why there are so many taxis on the road is that people are not paying the new prices. I am not quite sure exactly how much the new prices have gone up but it is likely to be 20-25 per cent. The taxi driver also said that although the fares do not go up until 8pm, people's perception is that they have gone up before then and customers who were taking regular runs in taxis are now standing in line waiting for public transport.
I proceeded to tell him how our prices are being controlled but in a reverse sense. That products were being made cheaper for consumers and margins were being squeezed in the area in which I work. It is a different effect of price control but interesting that both are dictated by politicians.
My taxi driver said life was much better before taxis were controlled by the Government. I said we have a new statutory regulator, so I know what you mean. He painted a world as being much more flexible and that, before the Government had direct interference with taxi drivers, things worked much better for them.
It seems to me from these conversations that it is not only our area that the Government is having a very direct input into but also many others. This does give it an enormous amount of power and, if misused, it would be of great concern.
We both happily concluded the conversation by talking about the qualifications that we have to go through. The knowledge is not an easy set of exams to pass and taxi drivers really do have to know their onions as far as the London roads are concerned as well as issues of passenger safety and knowing their car and its mechanics.
We have to do the knowledge too and around all sorts of tight corners. We then set to wondering what qualifications you needed to become an MP and decided it was not half as much as either he or I had to go through. It was a satisfying conversation.
It did set me thinking that the power of the Government is much more far reaching than we think. It is a concern that MPs who hold tenure for such a short period of time and rotate themselves with alarming regularity can set in motion some “good ideas” and never be there to be accountable for their results, whether they are good, bad or indifferent.
We are right to question the system where ministers are in situ for an average of 15 months. What incentive is there to make long-term plans? We are very much in a long-term industry.
Clients are amazed that I will be looking at their financial future over 20, 30 or even 40 or more years. I have to make these long-term decisions for them because I know that what I am putting in place will be with them for a considerable number of years.
It is a shame that the Government is not able to operate on a longer-term basis. I am convinced that it would be better for the Government, consumers and indeed better for those who it has a direct hand in regulating, whether it be a taxi driver or an IFA.
Amanda Davidson is director of Holden Meehan