PUBLIC PROTECTION LICENSING COMMITTEE
Minutes of a meeting held on 12th April, 2016.
Present: Councillor A.G. Powell (Chairman); Councillor G.A. Cox, C.P.J. Elmore, E. Hacker, Mrs. A.J. Moore, Mrs. A.J. Preston and R.P. Thomas.
969 ANNOUNCEMENT -
Prior to the commencement of business the Chairman paid tribute to Councillor Philip Clarke, as a Member of the Committee and valued Councillor, who had recently passed away. All present stood for a minutes silence in remembrance of Councillor Clarke.
970 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE -
These were received from Councillors Mrs. P. Drake, Mrs. V.M. Hartrey, K. Hatton, J.W. Thomas and Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson.
971 MINUTES -
RESOLVED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 2nd February, 2016 be approved as a correct record.
972 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -
No declarations were received.
973 AMENDMENT TO THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN’S AGE POLICY GUIDELINES FOR HACKNEY CARRIAGES AND PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLES (DEHS) -
The Licensing Team Manager presented the report, which was in respect of the Vale of Glamorgan’s Age Policy Guidelines in relation to the licensing of new vehicles, following the Committee’s request to provide clarification on this aspect of the Policy. The report outlined the outcome of a consultation with the trade.
Sections 47(1) and 48(2) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 allow the local authority to set conditions for the granting of Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle Licences.
Vehicle Licences are issued in compliance with the Vale of Glamorgan Council's Age Policy Guidelines, which state that a one year licence will be granted where a vehicle has delivery mileage only.
Following receipt of applications under this policy, the eligibility of the vehicle for the grant of a 12 month licence had depended on the interpretation of the meaning of the phrase 'delivery mileage'.
Licensing Committee on 4th November 2014 (Minute No. 565), approved the review of this policy guideline.
In preparation of the Committee Report, consideration was given to the merit of retaining a distinction in the policy between new vehicles and all other vehicles eligible for the grant of Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle Licences.
If reference to new vehicles was removed from the policy it would mean that all vehicles under 5 years old, and suitable in terms of their size and type, would be considered for the grant of a six month licence. Enquiries made with a small number of neighbouring licensing authorities indicated that few of them had any specific provisions in relation to licensing new vehicles.
Proprietors obtaining a one year licence would make a saving of £42. The current fee for the grant of a six month licence and one renewal was £284, whereas, the grant of a 12 month licence was £242.
Committee was informed that it might be possible that the small financial benefit derived from the granting of a 12 month licence, provided an incentive to the trade to licence new vehicles and helped to improve the overall standard of the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire fleet. If a policy in relation to the granting of 12 month licences to new vehicles was to be retained, consideration had to be given to the criteria used to establish the eligibility of vehicles. Licensing Officers considered that a combination of mileage and the date of first registration would assist in this determination.
Since the aim of the proposed change in policy was to introduce fixed, unambiguous criteria that were either met, or not, the number of days since registration and maximum number of miles were clearly stated in the proposal.
The date of the first registration of a vehicle gave the clearest indication that the vehicle was new, and that it had not been used as a demonstration vehicle, or for any other purpose by the retailer.
In setting a limit for acceptable mileage, a review of the current licensed fleet showed that in the period 2013-2015 ten vehicles were granted a 12 month licence. The average mileage of these vehicles on inspection was 193.5. In light of this, the report stated that a mileage limit of 500 would seem appropriate.
Taking into account these considerations the following statement was proposed as an amendment to the Vale of Glamorgan Age Policy Guidelines;
To qualify for a twelve month Hackney Carriage or Private Hire Vehicle licence, an application must be received by the Council within 15 working days of the first registration of the vehicle at the DVLA. The mileage at the time of application should be no greater than 500 miles. Evidence of DVLA registration must be submitted with the application.
The applicant may be the second or a subsequent registered keeper but the applicant must demonstrate that there is no more than 15 working days between the date of first registration of the vehicle and transfer of the V5 registration to the applicant’s name.
In order to enable most applications to be determined under delegated authority, it was advised that the following was added;
Applications falling within these guidelines would normally be approved under delegated authority. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, an application falling outside the above criteria will normally be refused.
On refusal of an application, under Section 48(7) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, the applicant would have a right of appeal to the Magistrates' Court.
On 24th February 2016 letters were sent to all current Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle Proprietors inviting their comments on the proposed amendment.
1st Line Taxis Ltd had submitted a response which was attached at Appendix A to the Report. In response to this submission, the Committee was advised that the DVLA offered an automated registration system (AFRL) which confirmed registration prior to the issue of the V5 Certificate. This should obviate the need to produce an invoice from the dealer or other proof of ownership.
Steve Thomas, Chairman of the Vale Taxi Association submitted a response after the end of the consultation period, which was attached to the report at Appendix B.
The report advised that if Committee was minded to amend the Age Policy Guidelines, it was advised that a date for adoption of the new policy be set, allowing time for anyone in the process of buying a new vehicle to be fully informed of the change.
Following the presentation of the report by the Licensing Team Leader, the Chairman provided Mr. Thomas, Chairman of the Vale of Glamorgan Taxi Association, with an opportunity to make representations to the Committee.
Mr. Thomas apologised for the lack of consultation responses received from the taxi trade in the Vale of Glamorgan and advised that he and other taxi operators had not received the consultation letter.
Mr. Thomas expressed the view that taxi drivers might buy pre-registered cars, as they can be significantly cheaper than brand new cars, yet as they were pre-registered these vehicles may not be able to comply with the 15 working day timescale proposed in the report and was of the view that there should be some leeway in the timescale. He further advised that car dealerships sometime pre-register cars to keep their franchise, but the vehicles can still have low mileage and therefore there should also be some flexibility with the proposed 500 miles limit for delivery mileage.
In response, the Licensing Team Manager advised that they had carried out some research with manufacturers and WHICH consumer company, in order to find a definition of pre-registered and brand new vehicles. Brand new vehicles could be heavily discounted if pre-registered, in order to keep sales figures up to date and these cars could be sold three to six months from the registration date. In essence, a pre-registered vehicle would be one which the buyer would have to choose from what was available at the dealership, whereas a brand new vehicle was one where the buyer could specify what they wanted.
It was confirmed to Members that the proposed amendment to the Age Policy Guidelines related to the first registration of vehicles and that older vehicles would still be eligible for the grant of a six month licence. If the vehicle met the proposed criteria, a 12 month licence would be awarded, and if not, it would be eligible for the grant of a six month licence.
The Chairman expressed the view that the proposed amendments would lead to a robust Policy and that Bridgend Council operated this process successfully, furthermore the proposal was aimed at ensuring that the Vale of Glamorgan Taxi fleet remained in good order.
The Licensing Team Leader said they would look into why Mr. Thomas had not received a consultation letter and ensured that this would not happen in the future.
Following consideration of the report, the appended representations from the taxi trade and the representations given by Mr. Thomas, the Committee
RESOLVED - T H A T the provision within the Vale of Glamorgan’s Age Policy Guidelines for the grant of a 12 month Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle licences to new vehicles is amended as recommended in paragraph 1 of the report.
Reason for decision
To provide clarity in relation to the eligibility of vehicles for the grant of a 12 month Hackney Carriage or Private Hire Vehicle licence.
974 EXCLUSION OF PRESS AND PUBLIC -
RESOLVED - T H A T under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Part 4 of Schedule 12A (as amended) of the Act, the relevant paragraphs of the Schedule being referred to in brackets after the minute heading.
975 APPLICATION TO GRANT HACKNEY CARRIAGE AND PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER’S LICENCES - L (DEH) (EXEMPT INFORMATION - PARAGRAPHS 12, 13 AND 14) -
The Legal Officer advised of the procedure for the meeting and confirmed with L, that they had seen the report. L was accompanied by their representative. Furthermore, the Legal Officer advised that the letter, presented by L’s representative, although received late, could be taken into account.
The Licensing Team Manager in presenting the report to the Committee advised that the purpose of the report was for the Committee to consider L’s application for the grant of Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Driver’s Licences. The matter had
been referred to the Committee because there was a policy guideline in place in respect of a grant of a licence that had previously been the subject of disciplinary action, including revocation.
Committee was advised that after careful consideration of the facts and any representations from L., it was requested to determine whether L was a fit and proper person to hold a licence on satisfactory completion of the application process.
At the meeting of the former Licensing Committee on 12th May, 2015, L’s licences were revoked following consideration of a disciplinary matter. Minutes from that meeting were attached at Appendix A to the report.
L subsequently appealed the decision to revoke the licences at Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Magistrates Court. The Licensing Committee’s decision was upheld by the Magistrate.
L had not completed some of the elements of the application process pending the outcome of the Public Protection Licensing Committee hearing.
On 4th March, 2014 the Licencing Committee had adopted a policy on the treatment of convictions, cautions and charges. L was not prosecuted in relation to the incident that led to the revocation of their licences in 2015; however, there was a clear and serious breach of condition. Section 17.1 of the policy of the convictions, cautions and charges stated:
An applicant who had a conviction or other matters to be considered for breach of legislation, bylaw or licence condition was unlikely to be granted a licence unless a period of at least 12 months had elapsed since the most recent breach.
The Chairman advised those present that L’s representative had provided a late letter of representation at the meeting from the owner of a local garage. The Chairman read the letter to the Committee and it was also circulated. The letter stated that L had an account with the garage and had brought their taxis for weekly checks since May 2015. The checks included tyres, brakes, engine and suspension and any work required was carried out by a mechanic at the garage.
Following the presentation of the report L. was afforded the opportunity to make representations to the Committee. L confirmed that their representative would be making representations on their behalf.
L’s representative informed the Committee that they had recommended that L provide the letter from the garage in order to ensure that the previous issues which had led to the revocation of L’s licences did not happen again and stated that L knew that they had been in the wrong. L’s representative informed the Committee that 2015 had been a very difficult year for L, with numerous personal problems involving two family bereavements and had also lost their livelihood. L’s representative advised that L had not been given a date to have their licence reinstated. In addition, L had put measures in place to ensure the previous incidents would not happen again and asked that the Committee treat L’s case with clemency, however, if it was decided not to grant the licences, requested that the Committee provide L with a date when the revocation would end.
There being no questions from Members, the Chairman advised that the important issue was that there had been a series of events, and warnings had been given to L, which had been ignored and the decision to revoke L’s licence was made in the interest of public protection. The decision before the Committee was, whether in the months since the revocation of L’s licence, there had been sufficient evidence provided to show that there had there been a significant change in L’s outlook, including the maintenance of L’s vehicles and whether the Committee was convinced that L had changed their attitude.
Following the presentation of the report, the letter and representations made at the hearing, the Committee then deliberated the matter in private.
On return, the Chairman advised those present of the Committee’s decision as below.
RESOLVED - T H A T L’s application for the grant of a Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle Driver’s Licences be refused.
Reason for decision
The Committee had considered L’s application for a driver’s licence, and taken account of the representations from L’s representative who had spoken on L’s behalf, and had every sympathy with L’s personal circumstances as they had been outlined.
The Committee had applied the test of fitness and propriety, as set out in the report, and taking into account the evidence presented, including the letter from the garage owner, the Committee was not persuaded that L had satisfied the test of fitness and propriety.
In addition, a period of 12 months had not lapsed since this matter was last considered in line with the Council’s Policy.