Waverley Borough Council Home Page Waverley Borough Council Home Page


Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Licensing and Regulatory Committee held on 13/01/2003
PRIVATE HIRE OPERATOR LICENCES – NEW CASE LAW



The purpose of this report is to inform the Committee of recent case law, which affects the way the Council licenses proprietors of hackney carriages (taxis) in their use of telephone bookings. The report has direct resource implications, which are detailed below. There are no environmental, community safety or “Opportunities for All” implications.
APPENDIX E

WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

LICENSING AND REGULATORY COMMITTEE – 13TH JANUARY 2003

Title:
PRIVATE HIRE OPERATOR LICENCES – NEW CASE LAW

[Wards Affected: N/A]
Summary and Purpose

The purpose of this report is to inform the Committee of recent case law, which affects the way the Council licenses proprietors of hackney carriages (taxis) in their use of telephone bookings. The report has direct resource implications, which are detailed below. There are no environmental, community safety or “Opportunities for All” implications.
_________________________________________________________________________
Introduction

1. There are two distinct forms of licence for hackney carriages (taxis) and private hire vehicles and their drivers. In addition to these, there is a further licence under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 for Private Hire Operators (PHO). This allows licensed PHOs to take telephone bookings and manage the distribution of the bookings to those vehicles and drivers working under the licence. Waverley has, until recently and in common with many other local authorities, held that any person taking telephone bookings should have a Private Hire Operator’s Licence, because the vehicle was, effectively, undertaking a private hire journey (with the private hire contract arranged by telephone) rather than a taxi journey (which was expected to be effected from a rank or by hailing the vehicle in the street, in the traditional manner for taxis). In view of more recent case law, your officers have held some Private Hire Operator renewals in abeyance pending a report to the Committee.

2. The recent case law has established that a Private Hire Operator licence is needed only for bookings taken specifically for a private hire vehicle (and not a taxi). Where a taxi driver passes on a contract, by mobile phone or otherwise, to another taxi driver, the first driver is not acting as a Private Hire Operator. The rapid changes over recent years in modern technology allows bookings to be taken from within a vehicle on a mobile phone and taxi drivers may use mobile phones to avoid delays in meeting customer requirements. To account for the modern practice and to have proper regard to the recent case law, it is incumbent on Waverley to review its existing policy so that there is no injustice to taxi proprietors who do not have any connection with private hire business. It is therefore proposed that those proprietors of taxis (hackney carriages) who also take telephone bookings in connection with their business should not be obliged to hold a PHO licence provided they only use hackney carriages and their drivers, licensed by Waverley, to undertake the bookings. If, however, they pass telephone bookings to a private hire vehicle (which carries a red licence plate) they must be a holder of a PHO licence to do so (as provided by the 1976 Act).

Resource Implications

3. Waverley currently has 63 Private Hire Operators holding licences. It is estimated that around 18 of these might not need to hold such a licence (already being Hackney Carriage operators) and that they should not be asked to renew their PHO licences. The extent to which the adjustment is necessary can only be established by further enquiries of the PHO licensees, which is to be put in hand.
4. Additionally, it is felt that some recompense should be offered to those licensees who have unnecessarily held dual licences and that this could be via a refund of fees. It is suggested that repayment of fees be backdated to the start of the Council year 2001/02. The reason for the backdating of refunded fees where the additional licenses have been unnecessary for the hackney carriage operator, is that the court case in point was determined during the course of that fiscal year.

5. The fee for a Private Hire Operator licence in the current year is 116 (113 in 2001/02). It is clear that there will be a revenue effect both from loss of estimated income and as a result of any refunds. This is estimated by the officers that this could be around 2,100 for refunds in the current year 2002/03 and a similar finance for the year 2001/02 and an additional effect for the future whereby the income to be expected from the licensing function will almost certainly drop below the anticipated figure to a new figure of 7,560, now estimated at 5,400. However, these figures cannot be fully determined without reference to each hackney carriage operator to establish the type of work each undertakes and whether any of their operating practices (other than transferring hire agreements by mobile phone or otherwise) required a Private Hire Operator’s licence during the relevant period.

Other Implications

6. There are, environmental, community safety or “Opportunities for All” implications arising for Waverley from this report.

Officer Comment

7. It is generally accepted by local authorities following the change in understanding of the relevant law that the PHO licence should not be required of taxi proprietors but should only be applied as a requirement where bookings are being taken for or transferred to private hire vehicles. Accordingly, the Committee is requested to note clarification of the licensing regime and the revenue effect on licensing income. Your officers consider that as a responsible authority, it is appropriate to refund fees where the law has highlighted that these may not have been required.

Recommendation

It is recommended that the Committee

1. notes the effect of new case law both in terms of loss of income and its application in respect of the need for Private Hire Operator Licences when managing Private Hire vehicle bookings only;

2. agrees that this licence should no longer be required for hackney carriage (taxi) proprietors in the future; and

3. authorises the officers to make appropriate refunds for licences granted in the current and the last fiscal year, as appropriate.
________________________________________________________________________
Background Papers (CEx)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.
________________________________________________________________________
CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Mrs R Hughes Telephone: 01483 523225
E-mail: rhughes@waverley.gov.uk
comms/licensing/2002-03/041 33170