Agenda and minutes

Licensing and Regulatory Committee Spokespersons with Representatives of the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Trade - Tuesday 28th January, 2020 10.00 am

Venue: Committee Room - Bootle Town Hall, Trinity Road, Bootle, L20 7AE. View directions

Contact: Ruth Appleby  Democratic Services Officer

Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for Absence

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Pat Keith, Brenda O’Brien, John Dodd (Substitute) Gordon Friel (Substitute) and Mr Tony Crabtree (North Sefton Hackney Carriage Association).

 

2.

Declarations of Interest

Members are requested at a meeting where a disclosable pecuniary interest or personal interest arises, which is not already included in their Register of Members' Interests, todeclare any interests that relate to an item on the agenda.

 

Where a Member discloses a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest, he/she must withdraw from the meeting room, including from the public gallery, during the whole consideration of any item of business in which he/she has an interest, except where he/she is permitted to remain as a result of a grant of a dispensation.

 

Where a Member discloses a personal interest he/she must seek advice from the Monitoring Officer or staff member representing the Monitoring Officer to determine whether the Member should withdraw from the meeting room, including from the public gallery, during the whole consideration of any item of business in which he/she has an interest or whether the Member can remain in the meeting or remain in the meeting and vote on the relevant decision.

 

Minutes:

No declarations of any disclosable pecuniary interests or personal interests were received.

 

3.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 94 KB

Minutes of the Meeting held on 29 January 2019

Minutes:

RESOLVED:

 

That the Minutes of the meeting held on 29 January 2019 be confirmed as a correct record.

 

4.

Refresher Training for Taxi Drivers

Item submitted by Antrec

 

Training to be provided every three years at badge renewal point.

Provided by accredited training providers only.

Subjects to include – Safeguarding, Disability and VRQ Refresher Courses

Minutes:

The Committee considered an item submitted by Antrec Limited, proposing that refresher training be undertaken by taxi drivers every three years at badge renewal point and provided by Council approved accredited training providers only.

 

Mr Frank West, representing Antrec Limited, presented the proposal indicating that:

 

1.    The refresher training would be made up of 5 parts comprising:

(i)

A comprehensive Maths and English assessment with information, advice and guidance on potential courses to help further develop these skills

(ii)

An update on legislation and regulation in the taxi industry

(iii)

Safeguarding / child sexual abuse (CSA) and Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) training

(iv)

Disability awareness training

(v)

Public Health agenda – e.g. mental health, suicide prevention (guidance from Sefton Director of Public Health)

 

 

2.    The training would be a one-day course.

3.    The course will result in 3 certificates – Safeguarding; Disability and VRQ refresher.

4.    The course would provide the students with a comprehensive Maths and English Assessment and information, advice and guidance on funded courses available to drivers to support them in developing skills.

5.    Cost: To be confirmed

 

Mr West indicated that the rationale for this training would be to provide reassurances to the Council and the public that Sefton drivers were able to safeguard the community.  It would ensure that drivers had an up-to-date knowledge of legislative and regulatory changes and supported Sefton Council’s Licensing Department in keeping ahead of other UK licensing authorities in terms of disability awareness and public health and wellbeing.

 

The Maths and English assessment would ensure that the course met the Local Enterprise Partnership’s priority to improve attainment in English, Maths and Digital work readiness.  Results of this assessment would lead to a referral to functional skills or digital skills funded courses.

 

Disability awareness – in 2019 the number of local authorities requiring disability awareness training increased from 41% to 44%, whilst the number of authorities requiring disability awareness training for PHV drivers had increased from 38% to 41%.

 

In respect of Child Sexual Abuse / Exploitation training, over three quarters of local authorities required taxi drivers (77% or 225 out of 291) and PHV drivers 77% or 227 out of 293) to complete child sexual abuse (CSA) or child sexual exploitation (CSE) training.  These proportions had increased since the previous year.

 

In respect of Public Health Awareness, working in association with Sefton’s Public Health Department, the training would develop awareness of issues that were at the forefront of the Council’s own agenda (e.g. the ‘make every contact count’ project that raised suicide prevention awareness).

 

The proposal was discussed at length and the following issues were raised:

 

·       The importance of the safeguarding aspect of the training, in that taxi drivers were often the ‘eyes and ears’ of the public in alerting the police to CSE, trafficking and other criminal activity, such as drug dealing.

·       In the Liverpool City region Maths and English courses were being offered to drivers to enable continuous development and provide a stepping stone for possible career changes.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.

5.

Unmet Demand Survey

Item submitted by Mr Richard Jarman

 

Discussion of points arising from the Unmet Demand Survey -

Including Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs)

Minutes:

The Committee considered an item submitted by Mr Richard Jarman, South Sefton Hackney Carriage Association, on issues arising from the Council’s Hackney Carriage Unmet Demand Survey which had been considered by the Licensing and Regulatory Committee (L&R) held on 6 January 2020 (Minute No. 27 refers).

 

Concern had been expressed at L&R at the lack of availability of Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs) both at hackney ranks in the north of the Borough (e.g. Southport Station), where hackney vehicles were predominantly of the saloon variety; and also the difficulties experienced by disabled customers when they rang taxi companies to request WAVs.

 

In relation to this matter Ms Paula Hodson, Disability Advisor spoke about the experiences and long wait, inconvenience and discomfort of herself and disabled friends in trying to obtain a wheelchair accessible vehicle involving waits of 3 hours outside in extreme weather conditions.

 

She indicated that drivers appeared to ignore requests from disabled users because of the time and effort involved in providing a ramp and helping wheelchair customers safely in and out of taxis.

 

Arising from discussion, the following issues/opinions were raised:

 

·       Wheelchair bound customers should expect the same service as non-wheelchair users and discussion ensued as to how the local authority could address this serious issue.

·       Some people seemed to be unaware that they could ring for wheelchair accessible vehicles to collect them (e.g. at Southport Station).

·       It was suggested that the Council should limit the numbers of saloon type hackney vehicles which might address the lack of WAVs in the north of the borough.

·       Under current legislation, the Council could not impose numbers of WAVs on the private hire trade; however there should be a reasonable expectation that hackney ranks should have a certain amount of WAVs available.

·       6 of the total 30 vehicles at Southport Station (hackney rank) were wheelchair accessible which should be a sufficient supply.

·       Southport had a high number of elderly residents who tended to prefer saloon-type vehicles for getting in and out of taxis, to metro cab type hackney vehicles.

·       Provision of WAVs was a national issue not just specific to Sefton.

·       Unmet demand surveys were often counter-productive in that issuing additional licence plates meant that drivers who previously worked at night - sharing a cab with a licence holder who worked during the daytime, themselves chose to work in the daytime when they obtained their own licence plates.  This led to an over-supply of taxis in the daytime and under-supply at night.

·       Maybe a process should be considered whereby a proportion of newly licensed vehicles had to be wheelchair accessible.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the provision of Wheelchair Accessible licensed vehicles be referred for detailed consideration and recommendation by the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Working Groups.

 

6.

The Handbook

Item submitted by Mr Richard Jarman

 

The Handbook should again be available in printed and indexed format.

Alterations to the Handbook should be consulted on and not imposed.

 

Minutes:

The Committee considered an item submitted by Mr Richard Jarman, South Sefton Hackney Carriage Association, proposing that the Taxi Drivers’ Handbook should again be made available in printed and indexed format and that any alterations / amendments to the Handbook should be consulted on and not imposed otherwise.

 

Mr Jarman indicated that the Handbook also set out conditions attached to licenses and that these should be agreed by the Licensing and Regulatory Committee.

 

Mr Toohey indicated that the Handbook was a working document and as such, amendments / additions were added to the on-line version.  It was neither feasible or cost-effective to provide new versions of the paper document every time an amendment was made.

 

 

RESOLVED: That

 

(1)

printed copies of the Handbook be made available to all new applicants on request with a charge levied to cover the cost of printing and postage;

 

(2)

on-line copies of the Handbook to include a link to enable existing licence holders to request a printed version if required;

 

(3)

amendments to the handbook to be discussed with the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Working Groups in the first instance; and

 

 

(4)

in respect of (3) above, any conflicts regarding conditions and other amendments to the Handbook be referred to the Licensing and Regulatory Committee.

 

 

7.

Cross Border Enforcement Arrangements and Concerns from the Trade

Item submitted by Mr Richard Jarman

Minutes:

The Committee considered an item submitted by Mr Jarman, South Sefton Hackney Carriage Association, on concerns from the taxi trade regarding cross- border enforcement.

 

Mr Jarman indicated that enforcement officers from other local authorities were wrongly imposing sanctions which were not applicable to Sefton Licensed vehicles.

 

Mr Toohey indicated that cross-border enforcement was still subject to discussion and had not yet been jointly ratified by the three participating Councils (Sefton, Knowsley and Liverpool).

 

RESOLVED:  That

 

(1)

Taxi Licensing authorities in Knowsley and Liverpool be advised that they are not authorised to stop Sefton licensed vehicles until such time as the cross-border checks are agreed by the three participating Councils and come into force; and

 

(2)

the matter of cross-border enforcement be considered at the next meeting of the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Trade Working Group.

 

 

8.

The Impact of the Rehman v Wakefield decision and Consequent Effects on the Service

Item submitted by Mr Richard Jarman

Minutes:

Further to Minute No. 13 of the meeting of the Licensing and Regulatory (Urgent Referrals) Committee held on 18 December 2019, the Committee considered an item submitted by Mr Richard Jarman, South Sefton Hackney Carriage Association, on the impact of the Rehman v Wakefield decision and consequent effects on the service.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That this matter be referred for further consideration by the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Working Group.

 

9.

Knowledge Test and Current Suitability

Item submitted by Mr Richard Jarman

Minutes:

The Committee considered an item submitted by Mr Richard Jarman, South Sefton Hackney Carriage Association, on the ‘Knowledge Test’ and current suitability.

 

Mr Jarman introduced the item and indicated that ‘route knowledge’ should form the most important aspect of the ‘fit and proper’ criteria for drivers.

 

Arising from discussion members indicated that the taxi industry now operated on an international basis and new technology / satellite navigation devices were far more efficient in helping drivers navigate in an area.  Furthermore, concern was expressed by private hire operators that this matter was being raised again, given that it had been discussed at length at numerous previous meetings, culminating in a resolution by the Licensing and Regulatory Committee on 19 June 2017 (Minute No. 10), that the requirement for Private Hire Drivers to undertake a topographical Knowledge Test as part of the Licensing process be removed.  This came into force on 1 July 2017.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the decision of the Licensing and Regulatory Committee held on 19 June 2017 removing the requirement for private hire drivers to undertake the Knowledge Test be noted.

 

10.

Clean Air Zone (CAZ) and its ongoing process and the impact of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) on the Trade

Item submitted by Mr Richard Jarman

Minutes:

The Committee considered an item submitted by Mr Richard Jarman, South Sefton Hackney Carriage Association, on the CAZ (Clean Air Zone) and its ongoing process, and the impact of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) on the local trades.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That this matter be referred for consideration by the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Working Group.

 

11.

Taxi Licensing Unit Staffing and Dialogue with the Trade

Item submitted by Mr Richard Jarman

Minutes:

The Committee considered an item submitted by Mr Richard Jarman, South Sefton Hackney Carriage Association, on staffing issues and the difficulties in maintaining reasonable dialogue between staff in the Taxi Licensing Unit (TLU) and the Trade.

 

Mr Jarman indicated that the TLU needed staffing at a senior level, stating that staffing had in the past included 3 senior staff members, but was now down to only two – namely, Mr Terry Wood (Environmental Health and Licensing Manager) and Mr Mark Toohey (Licensing Principal Officer) with increased calls upon the time and availability of both officers.

 

Mr Wood indicated that following approval of the adjusted taxi licensing fees for 2020, by the Licensing and Regulatory (Urgent Referrals) Committee on 18 December 2019, he had drafted a job description and person specification for an additional Taxi Licensing Enforcement Officer post, which was currently being considered by the Council’s Job Evaluation Moderation Panel.

 

Mr John Murrison (Southport Station Hackney Carriage Association), expressed concern that his members had recently been unable to access licensing support at the One-Stop-Shop, Southport, having been redirected to the Bootle One-Stop Shop. He wished to know whether this was a long-term and / or permanent arrangement.

 

Mr Toohey indicated that drivers had been directed to Bootle, because staff sickness had led to low staffing levels at the Southport One Stop Shop.  He stated that he would check the current position and report back to the Trade Representatives.

 

RESOLVED: That

 

(1)

That recruitment of a new Enforcement officer to come into effect as soon as practicable once the job evaluation process is complete; and

 

 

(2)

Mr Toohey be requested to update the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Trade Representatives on the current position regarding licensing facility / staffing at Southport / Bootle One Stop Shops.

 

12.

Private Hire Operator Fares and whether these could be displayed on the Council's website

Item submitted by Mr Paul McLaughlin

Minutes:

The Committee considered an item submitted by Mr Paul McLaughlin, Delta Merseyside, proposing the publication of private hire operators’ fares on the Council’s website.

 

Mr McLaughlin indicated that some private hire operators were ‘hiding their fares behind walls of obscurity, with spurious extras thrown in such as £1 extra for Town Centre collections or double fare on days when other operators charge clock and a half’.

 

He suggested that in the interests of transparency and in order to aid consumer choice, all Sefton licensed operators should have their fare structures displayed on the taxi section of Sefton Council’s website - Passengers would then be able to compare notes all in the one place and be able to make an informed decision when booking a taxi.

 

Arising from discussion the following issues/opinions were raised

 

·       Every operator should clearly state what their fare structure was.

·       One operator’s app did not enable customers to enter a destination into the app, and therefore, customers could not check what their fare would be.

·       Another problem was non-compliance with conditions i.e. signage on vehicles. 

·       If an operator did not comply with Sefton’s conditions their licence should be suspended.

 

Mr Wood indicated that Sefton’s Licensing Authority had no issue with private hire operators being transparent as to how and when their fares were applied, but careful consideration was required on how this could be put into effect and the pros and cons of using the Council’s own website for providing private hire operator fare structures.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the Environmental Health and Licensing Manager be requested to present a report to Licensing and Regulatory Committee on Private Hire Operators Fare Structures.

 

13.

Medical Fitness and Fraudulent Medicals

Item submitted by Mr Joseph Johnson

Minutes:

The Committee considered an item submitted by Mr Joseph Johnson, Berry Street Garage Association, proposing that Sefton Council’s Licensing Authority should only use approved GP’s to complete and pass medicals for drivers.

 

Mr Johnson indicated that he had heard of alleged incidents where fraudulent medical passes were being submitted to the Licensing Authority, with some drivers buying their own stamps and producing their own medical forms.  He indicated that this could easily be carried out by searching the General Medical Council website to obtain doctor details and registration numbers and once a form was completed it was extremely difficult to determine whether the form was genuine or not. This was a cause for real concern as drivers could be granted licences when they were medically unfit to drive and therefore posed a real danger to the public.

 

Mr Johnson suggested that the Council should have a list of approved doctors only and that each approved doctor could provide the Council with details of those applicants who had passed the medical for cross-reference purposes.

 

Mr Toohey indicated that this was not just a Sefton problem and that he would obtain a regional view on the matter at the next Merseyside Licensing Officer meeting.

 

RESOLVED:

 

That the matter of medical fitness and fraudulent medical forms be referred to the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Working Group for further consideration in consultation with the Council’s One-Stop-Shop, the British Medical Association and Merseyside Taxi Licensing Officers.

 

 


14.

Testing Station Review - Progress and Timescales

Item submitted by Mr Joseph Johnson

Minutes:

The Committee considered an item submitted by Mr Joseph Johnson, Berry Street Garage Association, requesting a progress report on the Testing Station Review and proposed timescales.

 

Mr Johnson indicated that despite this item being on the agenda for over two years and promises to complete the review, the Trade was still waiting for the review to be carried out and he felt that there was a reluctance to complete the review and implement changes. He indicated that one meeting of the Testing Station Sub-Group had taken place with Mr Toohey, however, following that meeting when promises had been made for completion of the review, nothing had happened.

 

Mr Johnson continued that he was concerned about the safety and integrity of the current taxi testing system. He indicated that the Licensing and Regulatory Committee had devolved the authority to local officers to appoint garages to carry out compliance testing and there were now 14 testing stations in Sefton. However, currently no new testing stations were being appointed.

 

Mr Johnson stated that his own garage had been a compliance testing station for about 8 years and carried out the most tests. (Over 50%). He expressed concern that no tester or testing station had received any training. Nonetheless, testing stations were passing vehicles as fit for purpose to carry passengers. He stated that due to the large numbers of stations and testers he considered that there were large differences in standards between stations and testers; that in his view, this problem had been common knowledge for some time and alleged some testing stations were passing vehicles without even seeing the car; or were passing them with faults for more money, presenting a real danger to the public.

 

Mr Toohey indicated that all of the testing stations had now been contacted; with survey questionnaires having been sent out to them all.  He indicated that he would share the results of the survey with the Testing Station Sub-Group Members - comprising Mr Richard Jarman, Mr Joseph Johnson, Mr Trevor Jones and Mr Mark Sanders, in March 2020 with a view to calling a meeting of the Sub-Group in April 2020.

 

RESOLVED: That

 

(1)

Mr Toohey be requested to share the results of the Testing Station Survey with members of the Testing Station Sub-Group (comprising Mr Richard Jarman, Mr Joseph Johnson, Mr Trevor Jones and Mr Mark Sanders) in March 2020; and

 

(2)

a meeting of the Testing Station Sub-Group be called in April 2020 to consider the results of the Testing Station Survey.

 

 

15.

2020-2021 Trade Meetings pdf icon PDF 68 KB

Proposed dates for meetings of the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Trade during the 2020 to 2021 Municipal Year

Minutes:

The Committee considered proposed dates for meetings in the 2020/2021 Municipal Year.

 

It was noted that the meeting cycle for the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Trade Working Groups were scheduled to take place at least two weeks prior to each quarterly meeting of the Licensing and Regulatory Committee and accordingly it was:

 

RESOLVED:

 

(1)  That the 2020/21 meeting cycle be approved as follows:

 

(i)             Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Working Group Meetings to be held at 9.30/10.00 on Tuesdays.

 

·       2 June 2020 – Southport Town Hall

·       18 August 2020 – Bootle Town Hall

·       8 December 2020 – Southport Town Hall

·       2 March 2021 – Bootle Town Hall

 

(ii)            Annual Meeting of Licensing and Regulatory Committee Spokespersons with Representatives of the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Trade

 

                     10.00 am on Tuesday 26 January 2021 – Bootle Town Hall

 

 

(2)  It be noted that the next meeting of the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Trade Working Group in the current 2019/20 Municipal Year is scheduled to take place at 9.30/10.00 am on Tuesday 3 March 2020.