Report of a meeting between Members, Taxi Proprietors and Officers held at Knowle, Sidmouth on Thursday 6 April 2017
Steve Hall – Chair, Licensing and Enforcement Committee (SH)
Jim Knight – V. Chair, Licensing & Enforcement Committee (JK)
Charles Stone (CS)
Martin Harris (MH)
Daniel Boulton (DB)
George Shorters (GS)
Alan Hill (AH)
Brian Bailey (BB)
Paul Matthews (PM)
Adrian Phillips (AP)
Marian Borkowski (MB)
Raymond Borkowski (RB)
Philip May (PM)
Leon Wilson (LW)
Steve Glover (SG)
Kevin Crudge (KC)
Steve Saunders - Licensing Manager (SS)
Emily Westlake - Licensing Officer (EW)
Lesley Carlo – Licensing Officer (LC)
The meeting started at 14:30 and ended at 16:30 hours
Apologies were received from: Barry Gardner, Nina Peters, John Goodwin, Rupert Crofts and Gary Marles.
- To receive the report of the meeting held 4 November 2016.
The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed.
- Matters Arising
No points were raised from the previous minutes.
- Update re DVSA notice to end taxi driving tests
The practical driving test is now being provided by Devon Travel Academy and all present reported that this is working well and the booking times are consistently much shorter than they were with the DVSA.
- Draft Taxi Licensing Policy Consultation
SS updated the meeting that the draft taxi licensing policy has now gone out for consultation. The new policy has taken into consideration best practice and aims to promote high standards without unnecessarily impacting the trade. SS asked if everyone present had seen the consultation and encouraged as many responses as possible as trade members are key. The closing date for responses is the 24th April 2017.
PM asked if all drivers would have to take a knowledge test on renewal. SS confirmed they would not have to, the knowledge test will only be for new drivers and any existing drivers who were a) late renewing and had to make a new application or b) were the subject of complaints about their driving knowledge.
MH asked if there was any change on which 6 passenger vehicles are considered 5 seaters and which are considered 6 seaters? SS confirmed that this hasn’t changed but that a vehicle proprietor could always bring this before Committee if they disputed the Officer’s decision.
BB asked if an upper age limit was being considered for vehicles and whether 4 years was considered a suitable age limit for a taxi/private hire vehicle on initial licensing? SS advised that the new policy does not go as far as introducing an upper age limit but provides that vehicles must now be inspected by a Licensing Officer (on renewal) once they reach 14 years of age and if the vehicle was not deemed to be satisfactory the renewal application would be referred to the Licensing Sub Committee. There were varying opinions within the meeting about this with some suggesting that 5 years for initial licensing with a 10 year upper age limit would be a better compromise. GS and MH commented that age is not necessarily the best deciding factor as some old cars can have very low mileage while some 4 year old cars can have high mileage and be in poor mechanical condition. SS encouraged all present to complete one of the policy consultation sheets available at the meeting with their opinions on these points and these would be considered as part of the consultation process before the policy is finalised.
CS mentioned the offence for refusing to take a fare and said there will always be occasions when it would be correct and necessary to refuse a fare e.g. for drivers safety.
SG mentioned the first aid kit and discussion was had about a) in what circumstances this should be used and b) whether it should be used by the driver or injured party?
PM asked about CCTV and whether this should be made mandatory for all vehicles? SS explained that the draft policy doesn’t make this mandatory but welcomed the trade’s opinion on this? Various opinions were expressed with pros being safety and negatives being cost. Some insurance companies insist on it anyway. Various drivers felt that if they were going to go to the expense of installing CCTV, they would want to be certain that the images are admissible in law and would hold up in Court.
Action: SS asked all present to complete a policy consultation form expressing any views they have about the issues discussed or any other aspect of the policy.
- Update on online applications
SS informed the group that EW is working on the introduction of an online system which will hopefully extend to taxi applications at some stage. There is still a lot of work to be done on this and it is not imminent but SS will keep the trade informed. If the trade are willing to help test the system and give feedback that would be very helpful.
- Review of hackney carriage fares
Cllr Hall asked if the trade would like him to chair a separate meeting to solely discuss whether a hackney carriage fare increase is wanted or not? There were varying opinions on fare increases with some of the trade suggesting that a small fare increase was necessary and would be better than a large increase all at once whereas other drivers felt no increase was necessary. Discussion was had relating to petrol prices, the expense of car parts and wages. SS asked attendees to raise their hands if they were in favour of a rise and the majority were in favour.
Action: It was agreed that rather than holding a further meeting, the licensing authority will send out a ballot paper to each proprietor asking them to vote for or against a fare rise.
- Immigration Bill 2016 – new procedures
SS confirmed that all drivers now have to complete a “right to work” check on application for a new licence or, if existing drivers, before their licence can be renewed. This is going to have a big impact on the October renewals as all drivers will need to come into the office in person with their right to work documents. The good news is that once you have shown your right to work documents once, if you have an indefinitely right to work in the UK, you will not have to complete this check again.
Action: EW and LC will send out further information about the right to work check with the October renewal letters
- Standards and Enforcement Update
SS reminded all present that high standards are expected of all taxi drivers. SS advised all present of the enforcement action including random checks that has been carried out by licensing Officers recently. This has led to various interviews in the offices and written warnings being issued. SS therefore encouraged all present to report any breaches they may see and assured everyone that these would be followed up.
SS reminded all present that officers are frequently seeing licensed hackney carriages with no roof sign and please can all drivers and vehicle proprietors ensure that roof signs are kept on the vehicles at all times.
- Community and Volunteer Car Schemes
SS advised the group that the licensing authority have been asked recently to look at the law surrounding community and volunteer car schemes. There are several of these companies within our district and SS and EW have had meetings with these car scheme groups to look at how they are operating. SS advised all present that the licensing authority understand the trade’s concerns about this and reassured the group that this is being fully investigated. There are exemptions for community car schemes and the Department of Transport have issued guidance on this. It is a matter of looking at individual schemes to see if they meet the exemption. The trade members present raised various concerns about these groups, as follows:
Trade members felt that these type of services take a lot of business from the taxi trade by undercutting their fares significantly which they are able to do because they don’t have the same costs as taxi firms (e.g. VAT, licensing fees etc.)
Trade members feel that these schemes are still making a profit from this and questioned how much of the profit has to go towards the charity to constitute the exemption?
Trade members raised the question of public safety and asked, if they are not licensed, do they have the same standards? Are their drivers medically checked? Do their drivers complete DBS checks?
- Access for wheelchair users – Equality Act 2010
SS advised those present that from the 6th April 2017 all wheelchair accessible vehicles have to be listed on the EDDC website. SS is in the process of writing to all proprietors to get their agreement to this. SS reminded all present of their duties towards disabled passengers and reminded everyone that they must never charge a disabled passenger any additional fare.
CS asked if drivers need to have any specialist training before carrying disabled passengers? SS advised that all East Devon drivers should have seen the disability awareness DVD but that it is something the licensing authority is looking into further. KC advised the group that DCC carry out very good disability awareness training. SG asked if there was any limit/quota of WAVs that must be available in the district? SS confirmed that there is not but that we do look to encourage applications for WAVs where possible.
Action: SS will enquire with DCC about the training they provide.
- Any Other Business
MH raised the issue of the zebra crossing on the seafront in Sidmouth. It is in a very busy location and drivers are finding they have to wait a long time here as traffic builds up. SS confirmed that DCC enforce this and that it has been mentioned before at various meetings. SH suggested that this could be raised with the Town Council and escalated to DCC with the group’s support. SH also suggested that Sidmouth proprietors may want to think about setting up their own transport meeting as this is a useful forum for raising this sort of issue.
LW raised the issue of lack of DCC enforcement officers in Exmouth and raised the issue of lorries and cars parking on the taxi rank and also cars driving the wrong way down the Strand.
Action: SS will feed this information on to DCC.
BB asked if it would be possible to put an age limit on private hire vehicles with an exception for classic cars? SS reminded the group to give any feedback they have on this on the consultation response form and this will be taken into consideration.
AP asked if Exeter taxis are able to use the East Devon bus lane and if so, why are East Devon drivers not able to use Exeter bus lanes? SG advised that Exeter drivers pay yearly to use the bus lanes and that you can apply for a pass. Several drivers felt strongly that any taxi driver should be able to use a bus lane and asked if there was a national policy on this?
Action: Cllr Knight asked if the issue of bus lanes can be raised with Exeter City Council and SS confirmed he will do this.
MH raised the issue of hands free sets in cars and the recent change of law about this.
Action: SS will look to circulate some further information about this.
Date of Next Meeting
The date of the next meeting – Thursday 23 November 2017 commencing at 2.30pm in the Committee Room, Knowle, Sidmouth