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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Licensing and Regulatory Committee held on 09/10/2007
Age Policy - Request for Reconsideration of Introduction



APPENDIX A
Waverley Borough Council

LICENSING AND REGULATORY COMMITTEE - 9TH OCTOBER 2007


Title:
HACKNEY CARRIAGES (TAXIS) AND PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLES
AGE POLICY - REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION OF INTRODUCTION
[Wards Affected: N/A]

Summary and purpose:

The Licensing and Regulatory Committee has already agreed amendments to licensing policy in respect of vehicle licences. Its recommendation was conveyed to the Executive and the Council, and it was given approval by the latter on 17th July 2007. One matter agreed has caused particular concern among licensees, and one of them has formally requested that the Council reconsider the date of introduction of the one particular aspect of the new policy.
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Environmental implications:

There are environmental implications associated with this report. These are mainly to do with the use of cars generally and the effect this may have on the local environment. However, the Council has a duty under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 and the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 to license such vehicles.

Social/community Implications:

Licensed vehicles and their drivers are an important part of the local community and add to the availability of local transport.

E-Government Implications:

Application forms for licences are available on the Council’s website.

Resource and Legal Implications:

There are no direct resource implications for the Council relating to this report. The statutory requirement to deal with applications for these licences is placed on the Borough Council by the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 and the Town Police Clauses Act 1847.

The Licensing Team deals with administration of all licences of this nature. There is a presumption that the greater degree of the cost of licensing should be met by licence-holders as the recipient of the service, and not by the Council Tax payer. It is also important to address issues such as the safety of the public who may use the services of a licensed driver and vehicle and this is at the heart of the licensing service.

Background

1. In order for a vehicle to become licensed to work for hire and reward, it must satisfy certain prerequisites to comply with legislation and the Council’s requirements. Several changes to these licence requirements were approved by the Council on 17th July 2007.

2. Among the matters approved was the proposal that vehicles presented as new to the licensing process should be under three years of age at first licence. Officers had proposed a sliding scale leading towards this introduction. In the recommendation to the Executive and to the Council it was proposed and agreed that the policy of vehicles being under three years old at first licence should be introduced with effect from 1st September 2007. In this report, this is referred to as the ‘new to licensing’ policy. [Prior to that date, a vehicle, provided it was fit for purpose, had to be under 10 years of age. This was managed by the officers by suggesting to applicants that the vehicle should be ‘substantially’ under 10 years old, and cars have generally been of varying ages from under 7 years old as a maximum at first licence application, and applicants have generally complied with suggestions from officers.]

Vehicle Age at First Licence

3. As was explained at the July meeting, it was clear that licensees had a preference, supported by the reasonable example of the length of a finance agreement, for a revised length of licensed life for taxis and private hire vehicles. They seem to have been content to accept the shorter working life for taxis and private hire vehicles. However, licensees’ perception is that there was short notice of introduction of the ‘age at first licence’, being from receipt of the Council’s letter (sent out immediately following the Council meeting on 17th July) to 1st September.

4. A licensee has written to the Council asking that the policy for first licensing be reconsidered. His letters are reproduced at Annexe 1. The section of the Policy which is causing concern is reproduced at Annexe 2, paragraph 1.

5. The Committee is asked to look at the request and to make recommendations to the Council on whether it would consider that:

1. The introduction date of 1st September 2007 for new vehicle licences should be re-affirmed; or

2. a sliding scale over, say, two or three years would be acceptable.

6. If a sliding scale for introduction is considered, then this could be handled as follows:-

7. A scale as proposed above would appear fair to those who are unhappy at present, in particular to those who have been trying, not all of them successfully, to replace their vehicles prior to the introduction date of 1st September 2007. This predicament is described by the writer of the letters at Annexe 1, Mr A C Brodbin, and others have told the officers over recent weeks that they have also had problems finding vehicles in the time allowed, especially where they had already programmed in replacement vehicle purchase at a later date in any case. The above sliding scale would bring the ‘new to licence’ policy in line with the ‘maximum age policy, which now states that from 1st September 2009, the maximum age for licenses granted to vehicles will be 7 years (unless the proprietor has any ‘grandfather’ rights over the licence).

Human Rights Considerations

8. In considering this report the Council must take account of the rights of current licensees. The Human Rights Act 1998 makes it unlawful for a local authority to act in a way that is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. Individual rights to respect for one’s home and private family life are protected under the European Convention on Human Rights, through the 1998 Human Rights Act. The Council has a responsibility to act positively for the preservation of human rights as well as being obliged not to interfere on its own account.

9. The effect of this requested change to licensing of taxis and private hire vehicles will maintain the Council’s intention of benefiting the general public in terms of public safety. Whatever decision is taken, the effect on the existing licensees would be in accordance with the law and necessary in the interests, and for the protection of the rights of Waverley residents to a safe and responsible licensed taxi and Private Hire trade. The intention is to clarify the vehicle licence ages, and to update these to meet modern changes in vehicle production. In addition, it is intended to ensure that the public when using licensed vehicles are given a better service with a safer and newer vehicle in which to travel in the longer term. The effect on existing licensees of the immediate introduction of a ‘new to licensing’ policy brought in over a period of around six weeks could be very difficult for them to deal with, and might be regarded as unreasonable. This could lead on to a challenge in the courts, which it is hard to see the challengers losing, based on grounds of reasonableness.

Conclusion

10. The Committee is asked to recommend to the Council whether it wishes to confirm the ‘new to licensing’ age policy commencing on 1st September 2007, or whether it would want to make a recommendation to change this. One possible way to change to a sliding scale is that set out at Paragraph 6 above, but members may have other proposals to make.

Recommendation

It is recommended that the Committee considers the report and the letters from Mr A C Brodbin, and makes a recommendation to the Council on the policy in respect of the age of vehicles which are brought in as newly licensed vehicles.

Background Papers (CEx)

Letters from Mr A C Brodbin dated 16th and 29th August 2007.

CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Rosemary Hughes Telephone: 01483 523225
E-mail: rhughes@waverley.gov.uk

comms\licensing\2007-08\035.doc