The Department for Transport have issued a consultation document reviewing the Best Practice Guidance for Licensing Authorities in England. A presentation has been produced to support the consideration of the response.
Councillor Dean Ward declared that he was married to a taxi driver and did not take part in the debate or vote.
The Licensing Team Leader provided the Committee with a presentation on behalf of the Cabinet Member for Governance and Licensing.
The first best practice guidance was issued in 2006. The Department for Transport had updated the guidance document to reflect new ways of working and were now seeking information and consultation of the new document. The consultation enables interested parties including the public, operators, drivers and representative bodies to respond. The Consultation was due to close on the 20 June 2022.
Consultation questions related to the following topics:
· Enforcing the Licensing Regime
· Driver Licensing
· Vehicle Licensing
· Taxi rank provision
· Annexes: Model bylaws for Hackney Carriages, sample notices between taxi driver or PHV driver and passenger, staying safe – guidance for taxi drivers, staying safe – guidance for PHV trade and useful questions when assessing taxi quantity controls.
Clarification was sought on the difference between two questions asked as part of the consultation relating to Enforcing the Licensing Regime.
It was confirmed that one question related to the drivers record and the points on their license. The other question related to operators for private hire vehicles.
It was highlighted that the time difference of points incurred to be on the records between an operator and a driver could be due to the duration of license: a taxi driver license was issued for 3 years, and an operator license was issued for 5 years.
A query was raised on how the Council would enforce drivers to evidence a higher degree of driving ability than required for private motorists.
The Licensing Team Leader confirmed that the Council currently requires a medical, a test of proficiency of spoken English and driving knowledge of the local area. It was noted that drivers are also required to undertake safeguarding training.
Concern was raised on the proposed answers to questions relating to car roof signs and private hire operator signage.
Clarification was provided that the Council policy did not currently insist on the display of the operator name on the outside of the vehicle.
Further clarification was provided to the Committee on question 21.
It was confirmed that hackney carriage vehicles have roof lights that can be turned on and off due to being hailed. A private hire vehicle does not have a roof light due to the vehicles not being hailed and being pre-booked.
The current policy stated that private hire vehicles may use other ways of displaying operator details but were not permitted to use a roof light.
The Chairman suggested that a comment be added to the response of the consultation that private hire vehicles could use signs to identify themselves as a pre-booked private hire vehicle rather than a hackney carriage vehicle.
One Member highlighted that some operators would text/email the individual who has booked the taxi with the name of the driver and the registration number plate.
General comments outlined that were to be added to the consultation response:
· Accessibility: Limited definition of assistance dogs; potentially insufficient to comply with S168-70 (Assistance Dogs in Taxis) of the Equality Act 2010.
· Private Hire Vehicle Operator Licensing: The fit and proper test for an Operator should reference the requirements of the Department for Transport Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Standards. The draft best practice guidance only refers to checks of Companies House information.
· Vehicles Licensing & Environmental Considerations: to ensure a consistent approach to the transition towards zero emissions, there would be benefit in setting a national standard and phased timescale to support this.
· Consideration of the provision of Government funding to support the trade in the transition.
The Chairman raised a concern in relation to accessibility and whether the consultation included the accessibility of wheelchair users.
Queries were raised on whether it was a requirement for drivers to display a photograph and registration inside the taxi.
The Licensing Team Leader confirmed that the Council issue driver badges with a photograph every three years, and they should be worn by the driver as set out in the policy. Vehicle identification plates could be found on the back of vehicles.
The policy cycle was 5 years and would be due for review in April 2026.
The Assistant Director for Operations and Public Protection confirmed that comments made could result in potential changes to the policy. Once the Department for Transport response to the consultation had been received, the policy would be re-reviewed to take account of any changes. The policy was not a statutory requirement and local choice; therefore, no review timescale was set in law.
Agrees the response to the Department for Transport Consultation on the Taxi & Private Hire Vehicle Licensing Best Practice Guidance for Licensing Authorities, with or without amendments.
It was proposed, seconded, and AGREED that the Committee recommends that Cabinet urgently reviews the vehicle age at first registration aspect of the Council’s taxi and private hire vehicle licensing policy, paying special regard to the vehicle age five-year rule.