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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Licensing and Regulatory Committee held on 11/06/2007
Hackney Carriages (Taxis) and Private Hire Vehicles



A meeting was held with taxi (hackney carriage) and private hire proprietors on 24th May 2007 as part of the consultation process for the policy proposals. This Annexe sets out the comments made at the liaison meeting with licensees , and also refers briefly to matters which were raised on the issues. Written representations have not been summarised but are set out in full at Annexe 5. Whilst some refer to the various issues, the major concern coming forward from licensees is with the proposed age policy, listed at No 11 below and clearly demonstrated in written representations.

PROPOSAL IN CONSULTATION PAPER (please refer to Annexe 1, 2 and 3)
COMMENTS (written comments refer to letters at Annexe 5)
1.Amendments to vehicle licence conditions, and the new conditions for licences, as set out at Annexe 2 of the consultation paper1. Fire extinguisher - should have a pressure gauge to ensure it is not empty
2. Spare wheel - some vehicles do not have these, but have an inflation kit only
3. (Not applicable)
4. Engine Capacity - suggests minimum of 1575cc should cover those just below 1600cc (See also letters 12, 13)
NB one licensee would prefer not to have the company advertised on the rear of the roof sign, but to permit it to be shown on the front.

Noted, but Waverley does not license without a spare wheel at present

A useful suggestion

This matter is not proposed for change
Accept and amend

Retain requirement for spare wheel and add provision for ‘get-you-home spare

Accept and amend

No Change
2.Licensed vehicles’ seating capacity be assessed via both width of the seat as currently, and also defined further by provision of seatbelt provision and safe access/egress, with the Licensing Officer authorised to refuse to include in the licence permission for rear-facing or ‘flip-down’ seats, unless provided in a purpose built hackney carriage, but that any dispute on these matters be brought before the appropriate Licensing Committee for decisionThere is no evidence that rear-facing seats are unsafe and in fact are proved to be safer, especially for babies.

It would restrict the model of car that licensees could purchase and therefore could affect their business.

If a vehicle meets government safety standards it should be acceptable to use as a taxi.

Is it acceptable to have a car with rear-facing seats?

Does the type of seatbelt restrict seating capacity?

For adult passengers rear-facing seats would only normally be acceptable in purpose built vehicles.

There would be no restrictive list of vehicles, licensees should check with the Licensing Officer before purchasing a new vehicle.

Safety is not the only issue and officers are not challenging manufacturers safety specifications. The Council wishes to ensure residents are comfortable when travelling and there is ease of access and egress.

The Council’s policy and guidance will be no in most cases. However, licensees can challenge this and request individual cases be brought before Committee. Advice has to be that a vehicle is not purchased until approval for the design has been given

A seat must have a standard fitted seat belt, which may include a lap belt in some vehicles.
Retain and approve

3.The Licensing Officer be authorised to refuse to license the full seating capacity of any people carrier type vehicle, (Paragraph 10 B) or similar, having particular regard to seats in the centre/rear of a vehicle where obstruction of an exit may occur, but that any dispute on these matters be brought before the appropriate Licensing Committee for decisionThe law states specifications for seat widths and the seating capacity of a vehicle. Why should this be different for vehicle licensed by the Council?

The licensing test for vehicles already stipulates the number of passengers a vehicle may carry, which is not necessarily its full capacity. This is not only a safety issue but to take into account the comfort of passengers. It is a formalisation and clarification of existing policy, which has been accepted by owners of licensed vehicles to which this applies.Accept and approve
4.The licensing of vehicles fitted with the manufacturer’ emergency spare wheel be approved, (Paragraph 10 C) but only on a ‘get you home’ basis and that no other hirings shall be undertaken when the emergency spare tyre has been utilised until the main wheel/tyre has been fully repaired and replaced on the vehicle, and in all other cases, the full spare wheel and appropriate tools shall be provided, as currently is the case;Accepted. Licensees suggested that keeping a spare wheel at home would ensure they would not let down their customers.

It is already a condition of the licence that a spare wheel must be carried; this will formalise the modern equivalent in addition to the full spare wheel, and licensees will be expected to have a responsible attitude to their duty of care to hirers.Accept and approve
5.No hackney carriage or private hire vehicle licence shall be dual licensed (Paragraph 10 D)Accepted. No comment.

A vehicle licensed by two different local authorities raises major problems for enforcement and meeting the requirements of each differing licensing policy. Accept and approve

6.Applications for non saloon type vehicles be refused, the only exception being for purpose built (London-style) hackney carriages (paragraph 10 E). (Please note that the Officers have been asked to undertake research on individual 4 x 4 models to look at the possibility of judging them by specification on their own merits to assess any problems they might pose for people with impaired mobility. This will be the subject of a future report.) There is demand for 4x4 vehicles from private hire vehicle clients and they are among the safest vehicles on the road.
Customers would be advised of the type of vehicle being used.

The policy is not to refuse this type of vehicle outright. Licensees are asked to check with the Licensing Officer before purchasing any vehicle, and this type causes some concern. This is for passengers with a mobility difficulty who may find them difficult to get in or out of.

The proposal is for officers to look at this issue further.
Note further report to the Committee awaited after research
7.The Licensing Officer be authorised to refuse applications to license vehicles with left-hand drive (Paragraph 10 F) and that any dispute should be to the appropriate Licensing Committee, in the first instance Accepted.

Accept and approve
8.Should there be any application for licence for a ‘stretch’ limousine with less than 9 passenger seats and right-hand drive, the officers should refer this to the appropriate licensing committee in the first instance, prior to arranging any other aspect of the licence (testing, insurance) (Paragraph 10 F)Accepted.

Accept and approve

9.The minimum engine capacity for any licensed vehicle shall around 1600cc (Paragraph 10 G )Accepted at liaison meeting
Proposed by Test Centre that this should be set at 1575cc.
Accept minimum of 1575cc for licensed vehicles
10.There shall be no additional tint (darkening) of the windows of the licensed vehicle beyond the legal limit of light transmission (not less than 75% for front and side front windows, and 70% for all other windows) or the manufacturer’s specification, whichever is the lesser (new condition at Annexe 2)Licensees asked for clarification regarding tinting of windows, especially as some vehicles are manufactured with tinted windows.Side rear windows and rear windows are not presently regulated. However, conditions already applied to all licensed vehicles which stipulates no changes should be made to manufacturers’ specifications.
This proposal is to provide good visibility into the car and so that vulnerable passengers feel less apprehensive about travelling in the vehicle.
Recommend approve
11.The proposed ‘age of vehicle policy’ set out at Annexe 3, be approved for the reasons set out and introduced in stages from September 2007 to September 2011, subject to the exemptions for purpose-built (London-style cabs and minibuses) and wheelchair accessible vehicles so that these may be licensed up to the age of 10 or 12 years, (Paragraph 10 H and Annexe 3)Would the same timescale of introduction apply to those who already have cars over 7 years old? If not we would like to see a more flexible scale for current licences.
Can I keep my new ‘02’ vehicle until 2012?

What about wheelchair accessible vehicles?

If licensees are forced to incur further expense by twice-yearly testing it could put them out of business and lead to unlicensed mini-cabs taking business.

Currently drivers sometimes have to wait for a test, this would mean further inconvenience as well as cost. Why do drivers have to go to Guildford or Woking to have the test? A test centre in Waverley would mean less waiting time and more competition, which could mean reduced fees.

Will a 2nd test cost the same? Can a standard Government MOT be used for the interim test?

If vehicles pass the tests, why impose an age limit?

Why can’t Waverley regulate the number of taxis it licences to enable existing licensees to improve their business.

What about self-regulation by imposing a 3-year age limit to new applications?

Licensees (at the liaison meeting) agreed generally that they would like to see 8 years rather than 7 years upper age limit– this would give drivers time following finance agreements to get together a deposit for a new car.

The 5-year upper age limit would be beneficial and keep standards up to a good level for the area, especially as fares are currently high; this protects the future interests of licensees and helps them to work together to keep high standards in the Waverley fleet.

Additional comments made in writing were based almost wholly around the age limit proposal. These are contained in letters numbered 1 - 14 at Annexe 5, and the comments of the Guildford Borough Test Centre on more general matters is at Letter No 15.
Before discussion took place on this proposal officers advised that, in response to the consultation and early suggestions from licensees, the age policy for licensing a vehicle was likely to have to be amended and a twice-yearly vehicle check might be considered for some older vehicles A sliding scale is proposed to bring all vehicles into line.

Further discussion will take place on this. Any vehicle could be considered for an extension. New vehicles will be subject to the new rule. Current vehicles will be subject to a sliding scale which will be to be formalised having regard to comments made on the proposal.

Waverley wishes to encourage more wheelchair accessible vehicles and would consider such cases on their merits.

The fee for licence applications covers administration costs as well as the test fee. The Council does not make a ‘profit’ on this fee. The fee for a second test would have to be assessed, and the cost of a vehicle transfer (currently 62) could be a guide to the fee for a second test in a year, although this will have to be approved by the Licensing Committee in the future.
The test centre has to be an authorised station and Waverley has a contract with Guildford Borough Council for the work, which is specialised.

Officers will be looking into the options for the second test and recommending an appropriate fee for this to the Committee, if required.

WBC considers it would ensure even better safety for residents. Compared to the age limits imposed by other boroughs, the 7-year proposal is average.

This would be a backward step, and against Government / Office of Fair Trading advice.

The new policy would be self-regulating as minimum standards will apply.

Noted. Committee to decide on upper age limit

Also noted
Recommend approve new policy that:

1. new vehicles must be under three years at first licence;

2. all vehicles reaching 5 years of age shall be subject to two tests per year, one at licence time, one at half year point;

3. a vehicle shall not be licensed beyond the licence year in which it reaches 7 (or 8) years old, unless it is a purpose built hackney carriage (London cab style) or a vehicle with wheelchair accessibility;

4. Introduction of this policy be via a sliding scale, proposal on this to be considered separately (Annexe 6)

The Committee is asked to consider the comments at Column 3 above, together with the letters shown at Annexe 5. It may then consider the officer recommendations on each proposal, shown in column 5 above and decide its recommendation to the Council on this matter.