Agenda and minutes

Licensing and Regulatory Committee Spokespersons with Representatives of the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Trade - Tuesday 26th January, 2010 10.00 am

Venue: Committee Room - Town Hall, Bootle

Contact: Chris Gill 

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for Absence were received from Councillor Mahon, Mr. A.Naisbitt, Mr.J. Murrison, Mr. W. Ritchie, Mr. D. Smith, Mr. R. Halliwell and Inspector M. Boyle.

 

The Chair thanked Trade Representatives for attending and welcomed everybody to the meeting.

2.

Declarations of Interest

Members and Officers are requested to give notice of any personal or prejudicial interest and the nature of that interest, relating to any item on the agenda in accordance with the relevant Code of Conduct.

Minutes:

No declarations of interest were received.

3.

Minutes of the meeting held on 27 January 2009 pdf icon PDF 111 KB

Minutes of the Meeting held on 27 January 2009.

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

 

That the Minutes of the meeting held on 27 January 2009 be confirmed as a correct record.

4.

Publication of Minutes

At the request of Mr Jones

 

Further to Minute No. 53 of the meeting held on 8. December 2009, that the Minutes of the meetings of the Joint Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Working Group be circulated prior to publication and that they be titled on the internet as “Provisional”.

 

Minutes:

Further to Minute No. 53 of the meeting held on 8 December 2009, the Committee Administrator reported on the questions raised in relation to the publication of Minutes.  He informed the meeting that the request for minutes to be published on the website as “Provisional” was contrary to Council protocols for all other types of meeting and unlikely, therefore, to be approved.

 

Members of the Trade Group made the following points:

 

  • That minutes may be on a website for some weeks before being corrected at the next meeting.

 

  • That minutes should be put on the website as possibly “subject to amendment”

 

  • That insistence on protocols and bureaucracy spoiled the relationship between Trade Representatives and the Council.

 

The Chair stated that the process was not perfect but that the Council’s meetings had been organised within the existing protocols for many years and could not be altered for one type of meeting.   He further explained that that the existing system whereby changes were made at subsequent meetings was correct in that minutes could be in the public arena without delay but that the Council was prepared to look at the process and there was a meeting of the Governance Review Group due to take place. It would be useful, therefore, to take these views as part of the Governance Review. 

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the minute publication process be examined as part of the Governance Review.

 

 

5.

Procedures at Meetings

At the request of Mr Jarman, Mr crabtree and Mr Jones.

 

Further to the item deferred from the meeting on 8 December 2009:

 

(a) “To discuss procedures at meetings, recording of decisions and dissent thereto”.

 

(b) Procedure at meetings, and the relation of the trade to policy makers:

 

The constitutional position should be clarified, with written material. To include procedure for recording outcomes discussed.

 

The hackney trade acknowledges that there is an extent to which the authority has management responsibility for the trade. It is fortunate that SMBC has historically an excellent record in that regard. This has been disrupted in that this has in recent months been replaced by unnecessary and bureaucratic procedure. There is / has been insufficient contact with councillors, formal requests to address committee being unnecessarily formulistic.

 

The relationship between the trade and its governor’s needs restating / discussing.

 

This discussion item is not directed at personalities.

 

[For the avoidance of doubt it is agreed that a hackney licence is an annual licence (it may sometimes be shorter). It is not agreed that a further licence must be sought before expiry or that a licensor may not adopt a policy that permits time to elapse between licenses.  Policy may well (and maybe should) take a view on the matter. It may be that jurisprudential issues are involved in the exercise of discretion, it is not agreed that the exercise of discretion can be avoided hitherto this has been accommodated as part of the trade structure

 

 This was the position prior to August 2009, it had (and has) the support of the trade. No inquiry as to departure from this has yet  been made? ]”

Minutes:

This item had been requested by Mr. Jarman, Mr Crabtree and Mr Jones.

 

“Further to the item deferred from the meeting on 8 December 2009:

 

(a) “To discuss procedures at meetings, recording of decisions and dissent thereto”.

 

(b)   Procedure at meetings, and the relation of the trade to policy makers:

 

The constitutional position should be clarified, with written material. To include procedure for recording outcomes discussed.”

 

In Relation to Part (a) above, Mr. Jarman stated that , as this had been  covered in the preceding item (Min No.4 ) the matter had already been discussed.

 

In relation to Part (b) :

 

Trade Group Representatives made the following points:

 

(a)

The Constitutional Position needed clarification, as Trade Representatives could not check that procedures were being followed if there was no constitution document available. They had been informed that a hard copy was available but the cost was prohibitive and the electronic version was too difficult to download.

 

(b)

That Trade Representatives had been discouraged from attending meetings as, in the past, agendas had been changed, items dropped without consultation and this had a negative impact on relations with the Trade.  An example of this was that only two (out of six) Private Hire companies were represented at the meeting.

 

(c)

The process for becoming a Trade Representative was too bureaucratic and the application form asked for too much information.

 

(d)

That when agendas were amended, important issues did not come to the attention of  Elected Members.

 

(e)

The Trading Standards Officer’s letter had clarified matters which had been previously pursued without success and should have been issued sooner.  

 

(f)

That they were happy that real progress had been made; that staff moved issues forward in a positive way and Sefton MBC procedures were much better than in other areas. 

 

 

The Environmental Protection Director indicated that the constitution and terms of reference for the Trade Stakeholder meetings had been agreed within minutes of previous Licensing & Regulatory Committee meetings and within the Taxi Portfolio Review undertaken in 2008. These could be brought together in a single document and shared with Stakeholders prior to reconsideration / endorsement by Licensing & Regulatory Committee.

 

The Chair stated that he was aware of criticism relating to agendas and that this may have had a negative impact upon relationships but he wished to stress that there was no hidden agenda and that some areas needed clarification as an improved structure was in everybody’s interest and would enable all parties to move forward.

6.

Training

At the request of Mr. Jarman and Mr. Crabtree

 

“The value of training is acknowledged.

 

Content of current training is not accurate; even where trainers are corrected examined content remains incorrect, examining bodies are unable / unwilling to respond. There is no or insufficient input to correct / improve content. Training is varied and inconsistent.

 

Bodies responsible for the various schemes do not respond. (Evidence is available relating thereto.)

At the request of Mr Jarman and Mr crabtree.

 

“Item 62 of the minutes of the trade meeting 8TH December to be discussed.

 

There is no procedure for continued (or corrected) education. There is no structure in place to deal with major new legislation; the Equality Bill is flagged as being complete before May. Significant portions relating to ‘hire and reward’ vehicles are included.

 

As a result of incorrect training SMBC was requested (by the trade, in June) to confirm that failure to pay for a service is an offence. SMBC as a consequence issues notices to like effect for display in licensed vehicles. Examined training still denies this and says such behaviour is not an offence, although the CPS at the trade’s request agrees otherwise.

 

It is not acceptable that centres of learning can be unresponsive but remain perceived as providing credible outcomes.

 

Funding is problematic; sources are indirect, requiring devious routes not proper in context.”

 

Minutes:

This item had been requested by Mr. Jarman and Mr,.Crabtree to inform the meeting of the problems and issues connected with the qualifications and the meeting considered requests from the Trade Representatives for clarification about the quality of training and the availability of funding to undertake the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) / Vocationally Related Qualification (VRQ).

 

Discussion took place and a number of differing views and comments were offered, detailed as follows:

 

(a)

That a petition had been requested by Trade members for submission to the Licensing and Regulatory Committee and the Chair welcomed this if it helped to initiate debate. 

 

(b)

That the problems with availability had reduced, as space was available if candidates looked around, although a Group Member reported that in one case four members of the same family had failed to obtain a place on a course.

 

(c)

That if Sefton arranged for training in–house, it would be better than that provided by the Colleges using the National Syllabus. The qualification was not worth doing and Sefton MBC should re-examine its commitment to the project.

 

(d)

That content was poor and the materials used not appropriate and that if it was not fit for purpose, it should be scrapped.

 

(e)

That the NVQ and VRQ were both national qualifications and would be recognized, as such, whereas in –house training would only be recognized  locally.

 

(f)

That the courses were suitable for new drivers but not experienced ones and that course quality varied according to which Local Authorities offered them, which was not consistent with it being a national qualification.

 

(g)

That the continuation of funding could be an issue, particularly as the VRQ was not funded

(h)

That information given on courses was sometimes inaccurate, for example that it was not an offence to refuse to pay, which appeared to be contrary to the SMBC enforcement Notices recently issued.

 

(i)

That more drivers were becoming qualified every day and this could only help in providing a better service.

 

 

.

The Chair wished to make the point that there was a difference between not having the means to pay (a possible criminal issue) and having the means but refusing to pay if the service provided was poor (a civil issue). 

 

The Principal Licensing Enforcement Officer explained that the Training Initiative was set up as a Department for Transport funded project, with Goskills, the passenger transport sector skills council to provide a basic qualification (VRQ) and an assessment of how the skills were put into effect (NVQ). There were problems of variations in quality but a review was to take place and Sefton should be a part of that review. 

 

He further explained that the Enforcement Notice sign recently issued to drivers was about the criminal offence of representing that a person had the means to pay when hiring a vehicle, when this was not the case.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That a Working Party be formed to address the issues in relation to training and funding for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Enforcement

At the request of Mr Jarman and Mr Crabtree

 

“Additional personnel are needed, and requested, particularly in Southport.

 

The format of periodic reports of enforcement activity should be updated / reviewed; presently not date specific, for example.

 

Enforcement would be best not restricted by time.”

 

 

Minutes:

Requested by Mr. R. Jarman and Mr. T. Crabtree in relation to additional personnel, an update of the reporting format and a request for time restrictions on test purchasing to be removed.

 

Trade Representatives made the following points, detailed as follows:

 

(a)

That there were concerns that a small percentage of Private Hire vehicles continued to operate illegally and action should be taken via further test purchases after 2.30 am. and more prosecutions, particularly as offenders may be uninsured if operating illegally.

 

(b)

That education of drivers and warnings, rather than prosecution, were the answer.

 

(c)

Mr. Johnson commented that it was a major problem in Liverpool, where CCTV was being used to catch offenders but that, overall, Sefton had done a remarkable job in the last year.

 

(d)

That Mr. Naisbitt had stated at the meeting on 8 December 2009 that he was hoping to recruit two more staff and, if funding was not there, then would it not be possible to redeploy SMBC staff who were in a redundancy situation.

 

(e)

A proposal had been put to the meeting of the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Joint Working Group on 8 December 2009 that the use of CCTV be explored and it had been agreed that Mr. Thompson would be tasked with consulting the Legal Department.  If that Department agreed that it could be a useful deterrent, he would bring back proposals to the next meeting of the Group (23 March 2010).

 

(f)

Mr. E. Davies expressed concerns about overcharging on Tariff 3 fares and asked that this be minuted.  A request was made for more test purchasing.

 

(g)

That, overall, the enforcement process was working well and was far better than it was in previous years.

 

 

The Assistant Environmental Protection Director commented that provision of full time Enforcement Officers was costly and there was a need to balance resources with the variable requirements of Service delivery.

 

The Environmental Protection Director stated that a review of the level of Enforcement Officers was proposed and this could help. The merging of Environmental and Technical Services Departments should assist better co-ordination of licensing and traffic regulation enforcement.

 

The Principal Taxi Licensing Officer commented that enforcement could not be solely against Private Hire but must also look to out-of-borough licensed Hackney vehicles working within Sefton, together with any discovered Hackney carriage offences by Sefton licence holders.

 

The Chair welcomed this and requested that the Trade Representatives be consulted as part of the process in order to enhance the enforcement process.

 

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the Trading Standards Manager be requested to produce a report on a review of enforcement activities and the number of Enforcement Officers.

8.

(1) Current Numerical restrictions, Conditions and Preconditions for Hackney Carriage Vehicle Licences, (2) To Discuss the Mechanism for Devising the New Procedures for the Licensing of Hackney Carriages, (3) An update on the Progress in Commissioning the Latest Demand Survey

At the request of Mr Jarman and Mr Crabtree

“The following items listed for discussion at “L&R” on 8th January (together with any supporting papers), should be discussed at the annual trade meeting:

 

a) Review of the Evidence Base for Maintaining or Changing the

Council's Current Hackney Carriage Numerical Restriction Policy and

Revocation of the Policy Relating to the Issue of Hackney Carriage

Vehicle Licences Over and Above the Present Restriction

 

b) Investigation into the Policies, Procedures and Practices Relating

to the Issue of Hackney Carriage Vehicle Licenses

 

To discuss also the consultation regime concerning any fresh or new practice and procedure. This should include the form and format thereof; in addition to the substantive matter, if it does not finalise any problem arising.

 

This item is intended to encompass items 39 (20th October trade meeting) and 54 (8th December trade meeting).

 

This item is to include the terms of engagement of any fresh ‘survey’, poll or other inquiry relating to taxi numbers.

 

The item is to include the circumstances relating to the licence currently waiting renewal; confirmation that there are 'fit and proper' provisions relating to drivers only. Owners / proprietors are subject to a differing regime (if any).

 

This item is to include procedural events leading to the failure to re-issue licences, historically and in the future; (FOI information relates and may be referred to).,

 

For the avoidance of doubt it is re-iterated that this tabled item is worded so as to include those matters of discussion / contention in recent months; albeit that they arise at the behest of the ‘secretariat’ rather than the licence holders.”

 

 

Minutes:

 

It was agreed that the above three items be taken together as the Environmental Director had to leave before the end of the meeting.

 

 

At the request of Mr Jarman and Mr Crabtree.

“The following items listed for discussion at “L&R” on 8th January (together with any supporting papers), should be discussed at the annual trade meeting:

 

a) Review of the Evidence Base for Maintaining or Changing the

Council's Current Hackney Carriage Numerical Restriction Policy and

Revocation of the Policy Relating to the Issue of Hackney Carriage

Vehicle Licences Over and Above the Present Restriction

 

b) Investigation into the Policies, Procedures and Practices Relating

to the Issue of Hackney Carriage Vehicle Licenses

 

To discuss also the consultation regime concerning any fresh or new practice and procedure. This should include the form and format thereof; in addition to the substantive matter, if it does not finalise any problem arising.

 

This item is intended to encompass items 39 (20th October trade meeting) and 54 (8th December trade meeting).

 

This item is to include the terms of engagement of any fresh ‘survey’, poll or other inquiry relating to taxi numbers.

 

The item is to include the circumstances relating to the licence currently waiting renewal; confirmation that there are 'fit and proper' provisions relating to drivers only. Owners / proprietors are subject to a differing regime (if any).

 

This item is to include procedural events leading to the failure to re-issue licences, historically and in the future; (FOI information relates and may be referred to).,

 

For the avoidance of doubt it is re-iterated that this tabled item is worded so as to include those matters of discussion / contention in recent months; albeit that they arise at the behest of the ‘secretariat’ rather than the licence holders.”

 

 

The Chair asked the Environmental Protection Director to speak on this item and item 9 at this point as he (Mr.Moore) would have to leave the meeting before it finished.

 

The Environmental Protection Director stated that, further to Minute No. 74 of the Licensing and Regulatory Committee on 18 January 2010, this referred to the two Green Papers that were considered by that Committee.

 

The first Paper considered the evidence for a Demand Survey and that it appeared that another survey was necessary and would be undertaken as soon as possible and the results published by July.  The Environmental Protection Director made it clear that the Council had not made any decision to change the current restriction and that independent objective justification was required to either defend the current position if challenged or support any future change.

Sefton Public Engagement & Consultation Standards Panel would be engaged to ensure good practice. The Unmet Demand Survey would be funded from part of the Reserve Account set aside for that purpose.

The existing policy regarding issue of licences should the council increase the number above 271 had also been revoked and a process set in place to develop a replacement  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.

9.

Complaint re. One Stop Shop visits and staff

At the request of Mr. J. Johnson, representing Tyre Express NW Ltd (Fleet Owners).

 

“During our last 2 visits to the one stop shop in Bootle we were

subjected to staff giving wrong information and showing aggressive

attitudes towards the trade when staff are clearly in the wrong.

Refusals to license vehicles incorrectly, I have sent a letter of

complaint to the one stop shop and also advised TLU. I feel this needs

raising and discussing as some training issues may be necessary.”

 

.

 

Minutes:

This item was at the request of Mr. J. Johnson, representing Tyre Express NW Ltd (Fleet Owners).

 

Mr. Johnson stated that he wished to withdraw the complaint as he was now prepared to resolve any issues directly with the Manager of the One Stop Shop (OSS).

 

Trade Representatives also then made the following points:

 

(a)

A question was posed as to what complaints procedure was in place, to which the answerer was given that the normal Corporate Complaints procedure applied.

 

(b)

That not all of the staff at the OSS were trained to deal with Taxi Trade information.

 

(c)

Payment by account should be made available as a facility so that cash or credit cards did not need to be used.

 

(d)

A walk in system should be put in place instead of the appointments system, as members would prefer this, even if this meant waiting to see staff.

 

(e)

That although the OSS worked well overall, mistakes had been made that would have put drivers off the road, if not for the intervention of the Licensing Enforcement Officer.

 

The Chair explained that there was a quality issue and that the formal complaints procedure may be heavy handed but the Licensing Enforcement Officer indicated that forms could be completed on the spot or submitted by email.

 

The OSS Manager answered questions and re-assured Trade Representatives that their points would be taken on board and used to shape future policy and provide a better service.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the One Stop Shop be requested to make the links for feedback / complaints issues better known to the public. 

 

10.

Update on Application for Authorised Testing Station

At the request of Mr. J. Johnson Tyre Express NW Ltd. (Fleet Owners)

 

“An update for the group on the application to become an Authorised

Testing Station for taxi & private hire vehicles.”

 

Minutes:

This item had been requested by Mr. J. Johnson on behalf of both drivers and fleet owners and referred to the inadequacy of existing facilities for the testing of vehicles and his application for the opening of a new facility. 

 

The application by Mr. Johnston had been approved by the Licensing and Regulatory Committee at its meeting on 18 January 2010.

 

Trade Representatives expressed concerns about the uniformity of testing in Sefton and asked whether any test purchases were undertaken. They were also concerned about the appropriateness of a company testing its own vehicles.

 

The Chair asked what checks on quality of service were in place and whether the VOSA procedures were robust enough for purpose.

 

The Principal Licensing Enforcement Officer reported that there was a need for consistency and the system was to be overhauled and he would report back to the Licensing and Regulatory Committee in the new financial year.

 

The Chair stated that part of the functions carried out by the Enforcement team was to check testing stations and other aspects of the Trade and that Sefton MBC would always work to ensure that the Service was proper and robust.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the approval of the new testing station be noted.

11.

Any Other Business

In accordance with Minute No. 37(iii) of the meeting of the Licensing and Regulatory Committee of 24 February 2003, other business may only be considered if agreed by the Chair and a majority of both sections of the trade and it is of an urgent nature, i.e. it requires consideration prior to the next scheduled annual meeting of the Licensing and Regulatory Committee Spokespersons with Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Stakeholders.

Minutes:

The Chair allowed Trade Representatives to make the following points:

 

Drivers had recently received Penalty Notices for using bus lanes in Liverpool, as cameras only picked up the front of the vehicle.  Trade Representatives asked if SMBC could issue front plates to drivers.  The Principal Licensing Enforcement Officer agreed to investigate this issue.

 

It was suggested that Representatives meet with the Parking enforcement agencies in Liverpool, to seek a way forward.

 

A Trade Representative expressed the view that a vote of confidence would be appropriate for the Licensing Enforcement Officers, who were doing an excellent job.

 

The chair thanked the Trade Representatives for their support and made the point that he wished for both Trade Representatives and officers of the Council to work together to provide the best possible service to the public.