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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Licensing and Regulatory Committee held on 11/06/2007
Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy



WAVERLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL

CONSULTATION PAPER
HACKNEY CARRIAGE AND PRIVATE HIRE LICENSING POLICY
HACKNEY CARRIAGE /PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE LICENCES
REPRESENTATIONS ON THIS CONSULTATION MUST BE SUBMITTED IN WRITING BY 31ST MAY 2007

Summary and Purpose

1. This consultation paper addresses and considers the second phase of a programme to update the Council's policy guidelines in respect of licensing for Hackney Carriage and Private Hire drivers, vehicles and Private Hire operators. The report addresses changes which need to be made in the area of vehicle licensing to bring the licensing process up to date.

2. This review has been conducted in the light of recent issues identified by officers and taking account of best practice of other licensing authorities, particularly in Surrey but also nationally. While the officers were considering the issues, the Department for Transport produced a Best Practice Guidance Note.

Licensing of Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicles

3. Waverley licenses Hackney Carriage and Private Hire vehicles under two pieces of legislation - the Town Police Clauses Act 1947 and the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976. All Hackney Carriage vehicles require a licence granted by the Council under section 37 of the 1847 Act. Such a licence is known as a Hackney Carriage Vehicle licence or Hackney Carriage proprietor’s licence (HCV licence). Section 47 of the 1976 Act provides that the Council may attach such conditions to a Hackney Carriage vehicle licence as it considers are reasonably necessary, and may require a Hackney Carriage to be of such design or appearance or bear such distinguishing marks as shall clearly identify it as a Hackney Carriage. Section 47 provides a right of appeal to the Magistrates’ Court for any person aggrieved by any conditions attached to such a licence.

4. Section 46 of the 1976 Act provides that all Private Hire vehicles require a licence granted by the Council under section 48 of that Act. By virtue of section 48, the Council may attach such conditions to a Private Hire Vehicle licence (PHV licence) as it considers reasonably necessary. Section 48 provides a right of appeal to the Magistrates’ Court for any person aggrieved by any conditions attached to such a licence.

5. This consultation seeks now to bring vehicle licensing up to date and as far as possible in line with current standards and technological/mechanical advances. It is also necessary to tighten up on matters which have to be observed by licensees, so that they can be clear as to their responsibilities when they run licensed vehicles as a service to the general public.

6. No person may at any time drive a hackney carriage or a private hire vehicle unless they hold the correct driver licence to do so. This has been established in case law and licensees wishing to operate their own vehicles are always reminded of this at interview. They are aware that a licensed vehicle can no longer be used as a family car, unless the licensee is the driver.

7. Applicants for new Hackney Carriage and/or Private Hire Vehicle licences (proprietor licences) are required to provide evidence that the vehicle is suitable, and the officers advise that people should always check with the Licensing Enforcement Officer before purchasing any new vehicle, to ensure that it can be licensed. This is also subject to the vehicle test to show that the car complies with the Council’s requirements. The annual renewal process for the licence provides evidence that the vehicle continues to be fit for purpose and has the equipment as shown in the comprehensive list at Annexe 1, with areas for amendment highlighted.

8. Advice is given to proprietors, where needed, when giving a completely new licence. This will cover the main points of operating and running the licensed vehicle, and is often covered in the new driver interview, so that there can be no doubt as to how the vehicle (even if it is owned and licensed by a different person from the driver) should be operated. Advice also covers providing to the Council regular and continuous insurance cover, and evidence of this in good time. The Council takes very seriously the potential risk to passengers of the driver not being properly insured. This aspect of licensing vehicles is a cause for concern and gives considerable work for the Licensing Administrator and the Enforcement Officer in trying to obtain the correct up-to-date information from some licensees.

Vehicle Licence Conditions Generally - consultation

9. The Council has previously agreed that licence conditions will apply to vehicle licences. A sample set of existing licence conditions for each type of licence (hackney carriage and private hire), is attached at Annexe 2. This also highlights in bold and italic type the proposed amendments to conditions for vehicle licences, together with suggested additional conditions.

PROPOSED that the revised vehicle licence conditions be agreed.

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

10. 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. Please note that these wheels are subject to restricted speed limits.

PROPOSED: amend the current policy so that those vehicles fitted with the manufacturer’s emergency spare wheel and tools may be approved, but only on a ‘get you home’ basis, and that no other hiring 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 changing the tyre, shall be required.

D Dual licensing of vehicles - The Council has strong views that the dual licensing of vehicles (by more than one Licensing Authority) 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.

PROPOSED that no hackney carriage or private hire vehicle licence shall be dual licensed.

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. There are concerns about access to and exit from these, which may not be suitable for people with any sort of physical disabilities or restricted movement, and they are not therefore what could be described as suitable in size or design, nor are they necessarily comfortable for all users. [The officers have been asked to undertake research into individual 4x4 models to look at the possibility of judging each style on its own merits, to assess any problems they may pose for people with impaired mobility] 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.

PROPOSED that applications for licensing of non-saloon type vehicles be refused, the only exception being for purpose built hackney carriages (London-style).

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 (1) 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 (2) 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 around 1600 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 3 to this report be approved.

Conclusion

11. The proposals in this consultation paper will make clearer to vehicle proprietors and drivers their duties as licensees. Additionally, the proposed new requirements on the vehicles themselves will help to achieve improved public safety and a more accessible and comfortable fleet of vehicles licensed in Waverley. Consultation with existing licensees will meet their rights to continue to work and their comments will be brought back to the Council for further consideration before any decision is taken about their licences.

The Consultation Summary

This consultation seeks comments in writing (by letter or by email to licensing@waveley.gov.uk) on the issues contained in this consultation document and Annexes 1, 2 and 3, summarised below:

2. licensed vehicles’ seating capacity (Paragraph 10 A above) 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 decision;

3. the Licensing Officer be authorised to refuse to license the full seating capacity of any people carrier type vehicle, (Paragraph 10 B above) 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 decision
9. the minimum engine capacity for any licensed vehicle shall around 1600cc (Paragraph 10 G above)

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)
r/tax/consultationvehicles07.doc

Annexe 1

LICENSING AND REGULATORY COMMITTEE - 16TH APRIL 2007
COUNCIL - 24TH APRIL 2007

TAXI AND PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE POLICY SUMMARY

1. A full application form (annually) with payment of the licence fee
2. Provide evidence of ownership (registration document, or invoice if new)
3. Current MOT certificate (after one year for taxis, after three years for private hire vehicles)
4. Appropriate ‘Hire and Reward’ type insurance for the vehicle
5. The vehicle must pass the Council’s vehicle inspection test
6. The vehicle shall carry a first aid kit and a dry powder fire extinguisher (min 2lb) - IDENTIFICATION AND UPDATE TO 1 KG REQUIRED
7. Hackney carriage plates shall be white and displayed on the rear exterior of the vehicle
8. Private Hire vehicle plates shall be red (edged) and displayed on the rear exterior of the vehicle
9. All licensed vehicle must display the internal licence (window) sticker
10. Licensed vehicles shall have not less than four passenger doors
11. Convertible vehicles shall not be licensed, but those with not in excess of 50% sunroof area are permitted
12. The minimum engine capacity shall be 1300cc - AMENDMENT REQUIRED
13. Seating Capacity determined by Road Traffic Regulations - AMENDMENT REQUIRED
14. TAXI sign to be displayed on the roof (taxis only)
15. The licence plate must be fixed to the rear of the vehicle and notice of the licence number displayed inside the vehicle
16. A meter must be fitted, tested and illuminated - taxis only
17. No vehicle over 10 years old will be licensed unless the applicant satisfies the Council that there are special reasons to do so, and in such cases the Council may impose special conditions as it sees fit, including more frequent mechanical inspections - AMENDMENT REQUIRED
18. Mechanical inspections shall be carried out in accordance with the Council’s contracted agreement (currently with the Guildford Borough Council at its depot in Slyfield, Guildford)
19. Private Hire vehicles shall be of a suitable type, not identifiable as a hackney carriage, size and design, safe and comfortable - CLARIFICATION NEEDED
20. Private hire vehicles may carry no signs, illuminated or otherwise, unless approved by the Council (see the conditions to the private hire vehicle licence)
21. A meter need not be fitted, but if it is fitted, it must be tested with the private hire operator’s scale of charges, which must be supplied to the licensing authority
22. The Council may charge reasonable fees to cover the issue of licences and require the production of the licence and any other documents at any reasonable time.
23. That licences shall be annual.

ANNEXE 2

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


Comms/licensing07-08/013.doc

Annexe 3

LICENSING AND REGULATORY COMMITTEE

TAXI AND PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE AGE POLICY PROPOSALS


Suggested maximum age of vehicles to be licensed:

Taxi and private hire - saloon vehicles
The Council’s current policy is that vehicles can be licensed up to the age of 10 years. In practice, many vehicles are run right up to that limit, and the officers have to advise that an application to continue licensing a vehicle which will have its ‘10th birthday’ during the licence year will have the option to transfer the licence to a newer vehicle before the 10th birthday, or the licence cannot run for the full year. Officers tend to advise (if asked) that any new vehicle to be licensed should not be more that around 7 years old, although there is no power to refuse a licence to an older vehicle, provided it passes the mechanical and comfort test.

There is always a special proviso for vehicles of ‘special quality’ and that is a subjective and mechanical judgement, which is not very often called upon. Where there is any doubt, such requests would be brought to the Licensing Sub-Committee for consideration. Any vehicle permitted to remain licensed would be subject to additional mechanical tests at the time and during the extra year.

It is now proposed that the 10 year age policy is revised so that eventually the oldest vehicle in Waverley’s fleet of licensed taxis and private hire vehicles (unless special quality judgement is requested) will be as follows:

PROPOSED FOR SALOON STYLE LICENSED VEHICLES

From Sept 2007:- 9years old maximum unless already running to 10 yr mark (special dispensation)
From Sept 2008 - 8 years old maximum
From Sept 2009 - 7 years old maximum
From Sept 2010 - 6 years old maximum
From Sep 2011 - 5 years old maximum

It is also proposed that the age for bringing a new vehicle into licensing should be similarly reduced, by the following mechanism:

From Sept 2007:- 7years old maximum
From Sept 2008 - 6 years old maximum
From Sept 2009 - 5 years old maximum
From Sept 2010 - 4 years old maximum
From Sep 2011 - 3 years old maximum

Thus, by September 2011 the new standard maximum age for licensed saloon vehicles will be 5 years old, and after this they will probably not be licensed. The new standard age for an application to license a new vehicle would be up to and not more than 3 years of age.

EXEMPTIONS FOR OTHER/‘SPECIAL’ VEHICLES

It is proposed that purpose built vehicles such as London-style black cabs and minibuses should be permitted to retain the 10-year age limit, or even to extend this to 12 years, since these vehicles are built with the clear purpose of covering many miles and giving long service, rather than a ‘family-style’ saloon car. In addition, there should be a similar incentive for those who invest in a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, always provided that it is in excellent condition both mechanically and for comfort of the passengers. However, the age limits for new licences should be reduced on the above sliding scale, so that new licensed vehicles will be fit for purpose. Clearly this involves a substantial investment for the proprietor, but if the vehicle is permitted to have a longer life, this investment should bring its own reward.

Recommendation

That the sliding scale for licensed vehicles, with the special exemption for specialised vehicles, be approved.



Comms/Licensing07-08/013.doc