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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Council held on 24/04/2007
Licensing & Regulatory Committee Minutes - Report to Council


Hackney Carriage Licences - proposed amendments to Conditions

10. The Council has a right under the legislation to impose conditions on the licences. The current licence conditions are shown in Annexe 1 to the report and repeated below with the proposed amendments in bold type and deletions in [square brackets]

Private Hire Vehicle Conditions

11. The Council has previously agreed that no vehicle can be licensed as a Private Hire Vehicle which has the appearance of a taxi (a London-Style cab for instance). It is considered that this stipulation should be retained. Otherwise, the licence conditions are similar to, but not the same as the conditions for hackney carriages; these are set out below with amendments as shown:

1. The maximum permitted number of passengers is xxxx - no change, this relies on the size and capabilities of the vehicle

Other Amendments Needed To Bring Vehicle Licensing Up-To-Date

12. A vehicle is subject to a detailed inspection before it can be licensed. While many aspects of this have stood the test of time, some details have been overtaken by modern technology and require consideration and updating as appropriate:

A. Width of seats/rear facing seats - this should now be governed by provision of manufacturer’s seatbelts, in addition to the provisions of the seat measurement in Road Traffic regulations as hitherto - (not less than 16 inches per person)
PROPOSED: amend to include assessing seating both by width and via provision of seatbelt provision and safe access/egress, and permit the licensing officer to authorise as appropriate, particularly with regard to refusal of rear-facing or ‘flip-down’ seats, with any dispute brought before the appropriate Licensing Committee.

B Safety and egress from larger vehicles - can be an issue with larger modern vehicles, which could be regarded as minibus style or similar people carriers with rows of three seats in the middle/rear rows.
PROPOSED: that the Licensing Officer be authorised to refuse to license the full seating capacity having particular regard to seats in the centre/rear of a vehicle where obstruction of an exit may occur, where it is anticipated that, if licensed, the consequence would be that the safety of passengers in an accident situation may be at risk.

C. Spare Wheel and changing tools - are currently required to be carried in licensed vehicles. Modern vehicle manufacture does not always supply a full-size spare wheel, but instead supply a (smaller) emergency wheel. Consequently the vehicle does not have a suitable space in which to safely carry a full size spare wheel. Officers consider that this new type of manufacture with the smaller ‘get you home’ temporary spare wheel will be difficult to resist in insisting on a spare wheel, especially when there is no designated space to fit the wheel into in the vehicle. The new style of wheel where fitted as standard should be approved as an acceptable alternative to the full spare wheel provision if it is part of the manufacturer’s specification, provided that at the end of the journey where the ‘get you home’ spare is used, no other journey shall be undertaken before the puncture, or other problem, with the main wheel has been repaired.
PROPOSED: amend the current policy so that vehicles fitted with the manufacturer’s emergency spare wheel and tools may be approved only on a ‘get you home’ basis, and that no other hirings shall be undertaken until the main wheel/tyre has been fully repaired and replaced on the vehicle, but that in all other cases, the full spare wheel provision, including the correct tools for the vehicle, shall be required.

D. Dual licensing of vehicles - The Council may currently accept and license a hackney carriage or a private hire vehicle which is already licensed with another authority (or the licensee may then take it to another local authority when it is licensed by Waverley). Your officers have strong views that the dual licensing of vehicles should not be permitted, since the plate and other accoutrements of the licence and the taxi meter for the particular borough must be displayed at all times. Dual licensing can only lead to confusion as to which licence a vehicle is working to at any time, and which council’s conditions of licence apply. This can also become a complicating factor when enforcement is needed.
PROPOSED that no hackney carriage or private hire vehicle licence shall issued to any vehicle in Waverley Borough, where the vehicle is already licensed elsewhere. Any case not complying with the single licence requirement shall be brought to the relevant Licensing Committee

E. Style of Vehicle appropriate to the licence - Some applicants have, over recent times, asked that 4x4 vehicles, such as land-rover, jeep and range-rover styles for example, be licensed. Officers recognise that these vehicles are durable and can be at the higher end of the price and quality range in some respects, but have resisted such applications. Officers are worried about access to and exit from these, which may not be suitable for people with any sort of physical disabilities, and they are not therefore what could be described as suitable in size or design, nor are they necessarily comfortable for all users. In more extreme cases, many local authorities have been asked to license such things as fire engines and mechanised furniture (sofas, beds and bananas for instance) for private hire. (See also Item elsewhere on this agenda)
PROPOSED that applications for licensing of non-saloon type vehicles such as four x four vehicles and novelty vehicles be refused, the only exception being for purpose built hackney carriages, minibuses and wheelchair accessible vehicles.

F. Left-Hand Drive and Stretch Limousines - Waverley can only license vehicles with eight passenger seats or fewer. In the interests of public safety it is felt that the Council’s policy should be to license right-hand vehicles only, since these have proper visibility at junctions and bends and are generally built for the British road environment. PROPOSED that all applications for vehicles with left-hand drive be refused by the Licensing Officer, and that any appeal against this should be to the appropriate Licensing Committee, in the first instance. Should there be any application for a licence for a ‘stretch’ limousine which did NOT have left-hand drive, it is
PROPOSED that the officers should refer this to the appropriate Licensing Committee in the first instance, prior to arranging any other aspect of the licence (e.g. testing, insurance).

G. Minimum engine capacity to be amended: The current limitation of 1300 cc is rarely used and the officers fee that there is a risk in licensing an under-powered vehicle. The 1300cc limit is considered to be too low for a vehicle to be licensed as a safe and comfortable taxi or private hire vehicle, particularly in such a hilly area as Waverley. Many authorities have a minimum of 1600 cc.
PROPOSED that the minimum engine capacity for a licensed vehicle should be at least 1500 cc.

H. Age of Licensed vehicles - the Council’s current policy is that a vehicle may be licensed at any age up to 10 years old, which results in a rather mixed bunch of vehicles licensed, and the officers have often to advise that a vehicle presented for a new to license should be substantially more recent than the maximum age.
PROPOSED that the draft ‘age of vehicle policy’ set out at Annexe 5 to this document be considered and adopted.

Improving Disabled/Wheelchair Access to Licensed Vehicles

13. The Council should by now be seeking to improve the provision of disabled/wheelchair-adapted taxis, in accordance with the Disability Discrimination Act. Officers have tried over the past several years to encourage operators to provide this type of vehicle, with little success. However, three such vehicles have been now been licensed. It is recommended that the Committee considers whether it would be appropriate to refuse to license any further vehicles in addition to the 175 hackney carriage plates in existence at last count (March 2007), unless these are for the licensing of vehicles with wheelchair-carrying capabilities.

14. It could be possible to consider this wheelchair accessibility also for new plates for private hire vehicles (Waverley currently has 85 Private Hire Vehicles as at March 2007), although these are not yet referred to in the disability legislation and their work could be argued to be for a different market than taxis may supply. However, your officers feel that the disabled passenger is rather more likely to book a private hire vehicle from home than a taxi plying for hire in the street of on a rank. There is therefore a clear argument for including private hire vehicles in the new plate provision for disabled vehicles at this stage, rather than to wait until this becomes an instruction from the Government.

Safeguarding the Rights of Existing Plate-holders and the Value of the Plate

15. This proposal, at the very least, would not affect existing plate holders, who would have the right to continue to license any unadapted vehicles or those unsuitable for wheelchair adaptation, provided they are now licensed. It will be necessary, in order to avoid the problems associated with creating an artificial value on existing plates, to insist that the current plate holder is the only person permitted to continue to hold any of the existing plates will be the current proprietor, or a member of his/her immediate family, i.e. son, daughter, wife, husband. This will, it is hoped, avoid the problem which can occur when there is any type of restriction on licence plates where the plate and vehicle may be sold at a high value, exceeding the real value of the licensed vehicle. However, as a small concession to encouraging change amongst existing licence-holders (proprietors), the reduced licence fee of 90 should apply for these existing licences where the vehicle has disabled access. (Members are reminded that the full licence fee for a vehicle in 2007/08 is 216.)

16. It is therefore PROPOSED that new licences be issued only to hackney carriages and private hire vehicles which have the facility or adaptation to carry wheelchairs, in accordance with the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act and the requirements of disabled people in the Borough. Such applications for new licences should not be offered the concessionary rate of 90 for the application/renewal, since this small encouragement is not needed if policy insists that the vehicle shall be wheelchair accessible. This concessionary rate should, however, to be retained for existing licences to encourage existing vehicles to be changed. These new issues of plates/licences to proprietors will not be subject to the concessionary rate of 90 per application for licence, but should meet the full fee of 216 (current rate).

17. It is also PROPOSED that licensees who hold existing licence plates for vehicles are not directly affected by this proposal, as they would be entitled to continue to licence appropriate vehicles on the same plates as currently exist, and with the concessionary rate, and to transfer the plate within the immediate family (husband, wife, son, daughter).