PUBLIC PROTECTION LICENSING COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 6th March, 2018.

 

Present: Councillor M.J.G. Morgan (Vice-Chairman in the Chair); Councillors Mrs. J.E. Charles, G.A. Cox, R. Crowley, Mrs. P. Drake, B.T. Gray, O. Griffiths, Dr. I.J. Johnson, K.P. Mahoney, Mrs. J.M. Norman, L.O. Rowlands,  Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson and Mrs. M. Wright.

 

 

755         ANNOUNCEMENT –

 

The Chairman welcomed Councillors Johnson and Rowlands as new Members of the Committee.

 

 

756         APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Councillors Mrs. A. Moore and J.W. Thomas.

 

 

757         MINUTES –

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 9th January, 2018 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

758         DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

759         REQUEST FOR AN EXEMPTION FROM CONDITION 9 OF THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN CONDITIONS FOR PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE LICENCES (DEH) –

 

The Principal Lawyer advised the Committee that the Applicants had given notification that they would be unable to attend the meeting and had agreed that the matter be heard in their absence.

 

The Licensing Team Manager presented the report to apprise Committee of a request made by Business Drive Wales to be exempt from the requirement to display door stickers on two of their Private Hire Vehicles (PHV).  As Officers were not delegated the authority to issue a PHV Licence, other than in accordance with Standard Condition 9, the matter had been brought to Committee.

 

The Officer advised that Business Drive Wales had been a licensed operator of PHV in the Vale of Glamorgan since September 2014.  On 8th February, 2018, the Licensing Authority received a formal e-mail request on behalf of Business Drive Wales to have an exemption from the requirement for door stickers to be displayed on two of the company’s PHV.  The vehicles concerned were: a grey E-Class Mercedes Benz, registration ST17 XXC, licensed since August 2017 as PH078, and a silver Ford Tourneo, registration YK66 DMJ, licensed since February 2017 as PH102.  The e‑mail request was attached to the Officer’s report at Appendix A.

 

With regards to the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Conditions for PHV, Condition 9 states that “The proprietor and / or driver shall at all times ensure that there shall be clearly displayed on the centre or upper part of each front door of the vehicle, the adhesive private hire identification sticker supplied by the Licensing Authority”.  The Officer added that stickers must be permanently fixed to each door with the identification sticker’s adhesive backing. 

 

The rationale in relation to Condition 9 was that members of the public could clearly identify Licensed PHV from both the rear and the side of the vehicle.  The door stickers also clearly advised that PHV must be pre-booked and displayed the licence number, which aided both the public and the Licensing Section with regard to enforcement.

 

The Licensing Team Manager drew the Committee’s attention to the Applicants’ e‑mail request, in which the Applicants had referred to the use of PH102 for weddings to transport the extended wedding party.  On this point, the Officer advised that there was a distinction between licensed vehicles and those vehicles which are deemed exempt from the licensing requirements of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.  The vehicles under consideration in the Officer’s report were already licensed and therefore deemed to be PHV as set out in the case of Benson v Boyce (1997) RTR 226.  This meant that once licensed, the PHV were always classed as PHV and subject to the conditions of licence imposed on the Private Hire Licence. 

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the request for an exemption from Condition 9 of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s conditions attached to Private Hire Vehicles, from Business Drive Wales in respect of the requirement to display door stickers on Private Hire Vehicles licensed ST17 XXC (PH078) and YK66 DMJ (PH102), be refused.

 

Reason for decision

 

The Applicant in this case has not provided any evidence that the public would be in anyway better protected from dispensing with clear signage when operating as a Private Hire Vehicle.

 

In the circumstances, there is no good reason to depart from the Department for Transport’s Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing best practice in which, a sign is required to identify the vehicle as a Private Hire Vehicle and helps avoid confusion with a taxi.  A separate provision and regime allows for the operation of a vehicle for the purposes of a wedding car in any event.

 

 

760         REQUEST FOR EXEMPTION FROM CONDITIONS 8 AND 9 OF THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN CONDITIONS ATTACHED TO PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLES – PH207 FORD TOURNEO 8 SEATER MINIBUS CN65 YBA AND PH198 JAGUAR XF SIG 6299 (DEH) –

 

The Licensing Team Manager apprised the Committee of a request made by Mr. Miah to be exempt from the requirement to display door stickers on two Private Hire Vehicles (PHV): PH198 and PH207.  Mr. Miah had also made a request to be exempt from having the Private Hire Licence Plate permanently affixed to the outer rear of the vehicle’s bodywork or to the rear bumper with the fixing kit supplied by the Licensing Authority.

 

As Officers were not delegated the authority to issue a PHV Licence, other than in accordance with the Standard Conditions 8 and 9, the matter had been brought to Committee.

 

Mr. Miah was present at the Committee meeting.

 

The Officer began by clarifying Mr. Miah’s request with regard to the condition exemptions on each of the vehicles.  Mr. Miah confirmed that he wished to make a request for an exemption for Condition 9 on both of the vehicles in question, however an exemption for Condition 8 on the Jaguar vehicle (PH198) only. 

 

The Officer advised that on 5th February, 2018, Mr. Miah submitted a letter requesting exemption from Conditions 8 and 9 of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Conditions attached to PHV.  A copy of the request was included in the Officer’s report at paragraph 8. 

 

Condition 8 of the Vale of Glamorgan Council's Conditions for PHV states that “The licence identification plate must be permanently affixed to the outer rear of the vehicle’s bodywork or to the rear bumper with the fixing kit supplied by the Licensing Authority at the proprietor’s own expense.  The Licence Plate must be clearly visible to the driver of a following vehicle and must not obscure the registration plate of the vehicle.”

 

The rationale in relation to this condition was that the Licence Plate would not be easily removed from the vehicle by an unknown individual and used unlawfully.  The fixing kits supplied by the Council allowed for the Licence Plate to fit flush to the vehicle thus preventing protruding Licence Plate holders causing injury to passengers or members of the public.   

 

Condition 9 of the Vale of Glamorgan Council's Conditions for PHV states that “The proprietor and/or driver shall at all times ensure that there shall be clearly displayed on the centre or upper part of each front door of the vehicle, the adhesive private hire identification sticker supplied by the Licensing Authority.  The stickers must be permanently fixed to each door with the identification sticker’s adhesive backing.”

 

The Officer also explained the rationale in relation to this condition in that members of the public would be able to clearly identify Licensed PHV from both the rear and the side of the vehicle.  The door stickers also clearly advise that PHV must be pre booked and displayed the licence number, which aided both the public and the Licensing section with regard to enforcement. 

 

Following the Officer’s representations, the Chairman invited all parties to raise any questions, at which point the Licensing Team Manager asked Mr. Miah if he had any livery on the vehicles when taking part in the executive work referred to in his request letter.

 

Mr. Miah confirmed that he did not display any livery on the vehicles when they were used for executive work as that was against the wishes of the particular type of client the executive work attracted.

 

The Licensing Team Manager referred to Mr. Miah’s request letter in paragraph 8 of the report, in which, Mr. Miah stated that he was an operator under the name Airport Link OP026 and that both vehicles were currently used for airport transfer work.  The Officer asked if any Airport Link livery was displayed on the vehicles. 

 

Mr. Miah confirmed that there was no livery used on the vehicles when taking part in Airport Link work.

 

There being no further questions, the Chairman invited Mr. Miah to make his representations to the Committee. 

 

Mr. Miah advised that he was attempting to expand his business model towards chauffeur / executive work, however, due to the business still being relatively small it was essential for him to continue private hire jobs to ensure a regular income. 

 

Due to other neighbouring Local Authorities operating with minimal private hire livery on display, it was common for Mr. Miah to lose business with regards to executive work as vehicles operating in the neighbouring Local Authorities were more desirable to the clients he was trying to attract.  He confirmed that clients were less bothered by the rear plates on the vehicles, however the door stickers were more obvious and disliked by the clientele he was trying to attract. 

 

The need for Executive Hire at Cardiff Airport was growing and the recent announcement of Qatar Airways operating out of Cardiff Airport was a significant business opportunity for him.  To his knowledge, his company was the only firm Qatar Airways had established links with, however, he was aware that the Airline would only use discrete executive vehicles. 

 

Mr. Miah concluded his representations by stating that he had always complied with the Private Hire Licence conditions and understood that the decision of the Committee was primarily down to a matter of trust.  He hoped that the Committee’s decision would ensure that he could operate both a Private and an Executive Hire Vehicle to support his growing business.

 

A Member queried the licence exemptions for vehicles that were carrying out Executive Hire work. 

 

The Principal Lawyer advised that Executive Vehicles were exempt from licensing conditions such as the PHV licensing conditions being considered.  Weddings and funerals were examples of an executive hire event.  The Officer added that there were currently no vehicles licensed by the Vale of Glamorgan Council that were operating without the rear plate on the vehicle, but the Committee had previously agreed exemptions for door stickers not to be displayed, of which the decisions were made based on the individual merits of each case.  Members had already requested a report detailing a policy for Executive Hire Vehicles which was being prepared, but Members were requested to determine Mr. Miah’s application on its individual merits; and if minded to approve the request, specify that the approval was to be non-transferrable and related to the vehicles specified in the Application only. 

 

The Chairman then invited Mr. Thomas, a guest speaker, to address the Committee whose representations could be summarised as follows: 

  • Mr. Thomas had extensive experience within the taxi / PHV trade;
  • The trade had made significant improvements over the last couple of decades and had progressed into the 21st century with drivers more rigorously tested and vehicles more easily identifiable;
  • The licence stickers on vehicles were an essential part of ensuring public safety;
  • Mr. Thomas was aware of Mr. Miah and his business and did trust him to operate lawfully;
  • PHV may come into contact with vulnerable customers and if vehicles were not easy to identify it could put customers in danger;
  • Exemption applications were becoming more frequent for the Committee and urged the Committee to be mindful of setting a precedent;
  • It was important that a quick and alternative system was implemented to allow businesses to operate a vehicle as both a Private and Executive Hire, within the Vale of Glamorgan, to avoid Vale of Glamorgan businesses losing business in their own local area;
  • Mr. Thomas and Mr. Miah would both be willing to offer a trade’s perspective on any future policy consultation.

A Member highlighted the fact that the demand for Executive Hire Vehicles was a 21st century business need so she echoed the need for quick policy change to support Vale businesses.

 

A Member highlighted that there was a need to amend the Council’s licensing policy to better match the current needs of local businesses and stressed the importance of clear repercussions if exemptions to the policy were not maintained.

 

Having heard the representations, Members of the Committee sought clarity on a number of points contained in the Officer’s report and there being no further questions, it was


RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T Mr. Miah’s request for an exemption from Condition 9 of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Conditions attached to Private Hire Vehicles, in respect of the requirement to display door stickers on Private Hire Vehicles PH198 and PH207, be granted.

 

(2)       T H A T Mr. Miah’s request for an exemption from Condition 8 of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Conditions attached to Private Hire Vehicles, in respect of the requirement to display an identification plate on the outer rear of the vehicle’s bodywork on Private Hire Vehicle PH198, be refused.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       To allow Mr. Miah to be exempt from Condition 9 of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Conditions attached to Private Hire Vehicles; in respect of the requirement to display door stickers.

Members recognised that there was prejudice to the Applicant caused by operators outside of the Council area being able to work in a certain way and also that specific requirements, in terms of on-going contract negotiations by the applicant, facilitated the exemption.

 

(2)       The Applicant in this case had not provided any evidence that the public would be in anyway better protected from dispensing with an identification plate when operating as a Private Hire Vehicle.