(Link to Council Priorities: Character and Environment and Community Wellbeing)
Elmbridge Borough Council, as the Licensing Authority, regulated the taxi and private hire services within the Borough. Whilst there was no legal requirement for the Council to adopt policies in relation to taxis and private hire services, a policy was an integral part of the licensing process and it allowed the Council to inform and guide stakeholders and helped to provide consistency in decision making. These policies must be reviewed as necessary to ensure they remained current.
In May 2014, the Law Commission published recommendations for reforming the law relating to taxis and private hire services and in July 2018, the Government’s Independent Task and Finish Group on Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing set out a road map for the reform of the taxi and private hire sector with an emphasis on safeguarding and public safety. In February 2019, the Government published a response to that report, immediately followed by a consultation on draft statutory guidance to licensing authorities which incorporated several recommendations in respect of safeguarding and public safety.
Following a review of the Council’s existing policy in 2019, the Licensing Committee considered an amended draft policy that incorporated most of the Government’s identified recommendations in order to strengthen measures to uphold public safety; safeguard children and vulnerable adults; and to improve air quality by requiring low emission taxi and private hire vehicles.
A consultation on the
Council’s policy was undertaken from 15 July 2019 until
7 October 2019. The consultation included e-mail and online consultation, face to face interviews and focus groups involving members of the taxi and private hire trade. Meetings had also been arranged to accommodate stakeholders working commitments however only one private hire operator had attended. A total of 58 responses had been received from the online consultation, 1 e-mailed response from a neighbouring local authority and 1 response from the private hire operator’s workgroup.
Of the 58 consultation responses, 2 had been from taxi or private hire vehicle licence holders; 4 from private hire operators; and 44 from licensed taxi or private hire drives. This response reflected 7% of the 846 members of the taxi and private hire trade that were licensed. Seven responses had also been received from frequent users of regular taxi and private hire services.
The consultation responses had been evaluated and a number of further changes had been proposed to the Policy in order to uphold public safety, safeguard children and vulnerable adults and to improve air quality. A summary of the proposed changes was provided at Appendix 6 to the report which set out each proposed change together with the relevant chapter and paragraph within the draft policy.
The Principal Licensing Officer provided the Committee with an overview of the additional chapter within the Policy relating to Taxi and Private Hire vehicle emissions. This was in response to the Council’s Climate Emergency declaration made in July 2019 whereby the Council pledged to take local action to contribute to national carbon neutral targets through the development of practice and policies.
Furthermore, the Taxi and Private Hire Licensing Policy had been reformatted to improve the document layout and accessibility.
Having determined the proposed changes, the Council’s existing Convictions and Penalty Points Policies had been reviewed to ensure that they reflected these new proposals. It was proposed that both policies be updated to meet the Council’s approved style and for a substantive change to be incorporated in the Convictions Policy. A summary of the proposed changes to both policies had been provided at Appendices 8 and 9 to the report respectively.
On consideration of the report, in answer to a question regarding how the 7% response rate had been calculated, the Principal Licensing Officer explained that the Council issued not only vehicle licences but also issued driver and operator licences as well and therefore of the 58 responses received, this did equate to a 7% response rate overall.
One Member enquired whether there should be a maximum time limit imposed when a temporary replacement vehicle could be used whilst an existing taxi or private hire vehicle was being repaired. This was to ensure that there was not a loophole to enable an alternative vehicle to be used for an unlimited period of time. The Principal Licensing Officer explained that the Council would consider the use of a temporary vehicle on a case-by-case basis however, generally repairs to vehicles took approximately 1-2 weeks to be undertaken therefore a maximum of one month could be included within the Policy.
In respect of vehicle emissions, the Committee discussed at length the proposal that upon implementation of the Policy the Council would not issue new licences for diesel vehicles. Given that the emission performance for all types of vehicles could be subject to change in future years as manufacturers made efficiencies and improvements to their vehicles the Members enquired whether emission statistics could be regularly monitored / reviewed. In respect that vehicles needed to comply with the European Standards, one Member enquired whether this could be subject to change now that the Country was no longer part of the European Union. The Principal Licensing Officer explained that the European Standard was the current standard that needed to be applied however, should the Country apply a different one in the future then this would need to be revisited.
In respect of the Taxi and Private Hire Driver’s Code of Conduct, the Committee discussed the wording in relation to the use of mobile telephones whilst driving. In this regard following the discussion it was suggested that the wording incorporate that the use of mobile phones should be in accordance with appropriate laws and legislation.
Upon consideration of the report and subject to the comments made above, a recorded vote was taken on recommendations (a) to (c) together as outlined in the agenda, whereupon there voted:
For the recommendations: Ms. R. Ahmed, M. Axton, A.P. Burley, A. Coomes, Mrs. C.J. Cross, B. Fairbank, A. Kelly, A.H. Kopitko, D.J. Lewis, M. Rollings, Mrs. J.R. Turner and R.C.J. Williams (12)
Against the recommendations: (0)
The Chairman declared the recommendations as having been carried and accordingly the Licensing Committee
(a) the revised Taxi and Private Hire Policy as at Appendix 1 to the report be adopted by the Council and take effect from 1 September 2020;
(b) the revised Taxi and Private Hire Convictions Policy as at Appendix 2 to the report be adopted by the Council and take effect from 1 September 2020; and
(c) the Taxi and Private Hire Penalty Points Policy as at appendix 3 to the report be adopted by the Council and take effect from 1 September 2020.