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Agenda Item No. 4

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Public Protection Licensing Committee: 6 September 2016

 

Report of the Director of Environment and Housing

 

Proposed 'Intended Use/ Remote Trading' Policy for Hackney Carriages

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. To consider the risk to public safety presented by the remote trading of Hackney Carriages in other Authority areas;
  2. To consult the local taxi trade on a draft policy to mitigate such risk.

Recommendation

That Members approve the proposal to consult with the local taxi trade on the introduction of an Intended Use/Remote Trading Policy in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Reasons for the Recommendation

The policy is intended to deal with the issues that arise from proprietors obtaining a Hackney Carriage Vehicle licence in the Vale of Glamorgan, which then allows them to trade as a Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) anywhere in the UK. A number of Welsh authorities have already adopted Intended Use policies as a result of identifying that their hackney carriage vehicles were remotely trading in areas such as Bristol. It is also intended that similar policies will be introduced in Bridgend County Borough Council and The City of Cardiff Council, helping to harmonise policy across the Shared Regulatory Service (SRS).

Background

  1. In 2008 a High Court Judgement - Newcastle City Council v Berwick-upon-Tweed established a principle that it was lawful for Hackney Carriages to trade as Private Hire Vehicles, (accepting only pre bookings) in a local authority area other than that which issued the licences (the home authority). See Appendix A for full judgement.
  2. The judgement in itself was acceptable, in that many licensed vehicles trade to some extent in areas other than the home licensing authority where licences are issued. For example, residents of the Vale of Glamorgan may wish to travel to or from neighbouring Authorities, such as Cardiff, Bridgend, Newport, or Caerphilly and this generally does not present a problem to the trade or the travelling public, being a legitimate aspect of a journey.
  3. However, the case precedent arose as a result of a challenge from a licensing authority (Newcastle City Council) against a neighbouring licensing authority (Berwick-upon-Tweed) where there was a considerable disparity between standards of vehicles, conditions of licence and fees.
  4. There were a disproportionate number of licence applications, (both personal and vehicle), in Berwick-upon-Tweed, where applicants sought to take advantage of less stringent conditions of licence and preferential fees, although vehicles and drivers were actually intending to trade exclusively in Newcastle.
  5. The position of Berwick-upon-Tweed was that the less stringent conditions and lower fees applied to their licences were proportionate to the local conditions and supported a viable fleet in their Borough.
  6. The position of Newcastle City Council was that the less stringent conditions and lower fees detracted from their ability to promote public safety in a city centre environment, with a consequential risk to the travelling public.
  7. As a result of the decision that such activity was indeed lawful, several licensing authorities identified 'out of area' vehicles trading in their Boroughs and took steps to eliminate such trade. This primarily affected larger cities, but more recently all types of areas have been affected.
  8. The principle of local control is important and a licensing authority will set out its regime to ensure that its statutory obligations to provide a service are met, subject to the specific needs of its area - with the understanding that such vehicles and drivers will trade primarily within that area.
  9. Another notable authority to have dealt with this issue is Shropshire. They were faced with a large number of their licensed vehicles operating out of Birmingham and the West Midlands. For this reason they adopted an 'Intended Use' policy in February 2012. The justification for such a policy was on the grounds of public safety, in that if vehicles are predominantly operating outside of the area where they are licensed then they are not available to be spot checked by officers when carrying out enforcement.
  10. Having examined the circumstances and applications of various licensees, there is limited concern that the practice of 'out of area'/ remote trading is currently prevalent amongst drivers licensed in the Vale of Glamorgan. However, best practice advocates that prevention is better than cure and it is preferable to apply closer scrutiny to applications, with the prospect of challenging them prior to being granted, as opposed to the review of a licence when trading activity becomes a problem.
  11. The draft Intended Use Policy is detailed in Appendix B. This policy is based on the template provided by the Directors of Public Protection Wales (DPPW) which is approved for use by Welsh local authorities.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. The issue of remote trading poses a problem for both the authority where the vehicle is licensed and the authority where the vehicle is operating. Licensing Enforcement Officers are normally only authorised to carry out checks on vehicles licensed in their own authority. If vehicles are predominantly operating outside of the area where they are licensed then they are not available to be spot checked by officers in the area that they are operating. This also poses a problem for officers of the licensing authority having to carry out enforcement at a distance. Officers of the Shared Regulatory Service of Bridgend, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan are authorised to carry out checks across each of the three authorities. However, the enforcement issues will still exist for vehicles coming from outside these authorities.
  2. There are a number of guidelines and conditions governing the suitability of persons and vehicles issued with licences and also how those licences operate. These conditions are decided by each authority, having regard to whether they're proportionate to local conditions and support a viable fleet within the authority. For example, with the exception of London style taxis, all Hackney Carriages in the Vale of Glamorgan must be white with a black bonnet. However, in Cardiff there they must be black with a white bonnet. This situation could cause confusion to the public as they see Vale of Glamorgan vehicles marked "Hackney Carriage" operating throughout the city that cannot be hailed from the roadside.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. None. It is envisaged that any partnership work between neighbouring authorities will not significantly increase workload. However, any increase from current resources will be met from fee arrangements.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. None.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. Newcastle City Council v Berwick-upon-Tweed Council [2008]. In this judgement, the following statements were made:-
  • "It was the intention behind the licensing system that it should operate in such a way that the authority licensing hackney carriages is the authority for the area in which those vehicles are generally used";
  • "A licensing authority, properly directing itself, is entitled and indeed obliged to have regard to whether in fact the applicant intends to use that hackney carriage predominantly, or entirely, remotely from the authority's area" and;
  • "It must be desirable for an authority issuing licences to hackney carriages to be able to restrict the issuing of those licence to proprietors and drivers which are intending to ply for hire in that authority's area"
  1. Under Section 47 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 the Council may impose such conditions upon hackney carriage licences as it may consider reasonably necessary.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. None

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. The Council is obliged to apply its licensing conditions on an equitable basis in the case of all applications.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. As the general public rely on the licensed trade to transport them safely, suitable licence conditions contribute to Outcome1: "An Inclusive and Safer Vale."

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This is a matter for decision by the Public Protection Licensing Committee.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. Consultation will be undertaken with the Vale of Glamorgan taxi trade.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Homes and Safe Communities

Background Papers

  • Newcastle City Council v Berwick-upon-Tweed attached
  • DPPW Intended use policy for the licensing of hackney carriages

Contact Officer

Daniel Cook, Licensing Policy Officer 029 2087 2011

Officers Consulted

Richard Price, Lawyer Legal Services 01446 709409

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter, Director of Environment and Housing

 

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