1. The Surveillance Camera Commissioner welcomes the opportunity to provide input in to this consultation on statutory guidance for licensing authorities with regard to taxis. He has worked with the Department for Transport in development of the draft guidance that was issued for consultation.
2. The Commissioner recognises that it refers local authorities to the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice. The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 (PoFA) s.33(5) sets out that they must pay due regard to the code. It is also encouraging that the guidance refers to a number of the tools the Commissioner has issued to help organisations comply with the 12 guiding principles in the code. As relevant authorities under PoFA, local authorities must be made aware that if they do not pay due regard to the code this is admissible as evidence in court. The Crown Prosecution Service revised their Disclosure Manual in December 2018 to reflect this.
3. That said blanket licencing may be disproportionate and should only be used where there is a strong justification as set out in paragraph 1.15 of the code:
When a relevant authority has licensing functions and considers the use of surveillance camera systems as part of the conditions attached to a licence or certificate, it must in particular have regard to guiding principle one in this code. Any proposed imposition of a blanket requirement to attach surveillance camera conditions as part of the conditions attached to a licence or certificate is likely to give rise to concerns about the proportionality of such an approach and will require an appropriately strong justification and must be kept under regular review.
4. The Commissioner is aware of the blanket requirement for taxis in Rotherham to have CCTV installed. This was one of a number of measures implemented following the child abuse issues in the town where taxis were used to transport a number of the victims. Here there was persuasive evidence to argue sufficient justification but the Commissioner would not expect widespread installation of CCTV in taxis without well evidenced justifications. The local authority’s Senior Responsible Officer for compliance with PoFA and the code will be able to advise on justification requirements for CCTV.
5. Furthermore, CCTV in taxis typically also records audio (as well as video). The recording of conversations is extremely intrusive and requires strong justification as set out in paragraph 3.3.2 of the code:
Any proposed deployment that includes audio recording in a public place is likely to require a strong justification of necessity to establish its proportionality. There is a strong presumption that a surveillance camera system must not be used to record conversations as this is highly intrusive and unlikely to be justified.
6. A key part in the process for justifying a surveillance camera system is consultation. The Commissioner would expect to see clear evidence of public consultation before any final decision about installation is made. This consultation should involve members of the public, taxi drivers, police and any relevant regulators.
7. Local authorities must also have completed a data protection impact assessment prior to installation and have consulted their data protection officer and legal teams. There is a surveillance camera specific DPIA template on the Commissioner’s website which was developed in conjunction with the Information Commissioner’s Office.
8. Where it is the case that taxi drivers use the vehicle for their own private use the Commissioner would expect there to be a facility to switch off recording. In addition there must be clear policies and procedures in place regarding how the CCTV system is used and who can access the footage it records and where CCTV systems are IP enabled (connected to the internet) then they must be cyber secure.
9. The Commissioner would recommend that installation of any system should include a full operational requirement which can be achieved by using the Commissioner’s Buyers’ Toolkit and/or Passport to Compliance documents. This will ensure that a system is installed that is fit for purpose and actually delivers footage that can be used in court if required. Whilst the Commissioner appreciates the austere times that local authorities are working in, he would not expect that substandard systems are installed to save money particularly if the justification of the system is passenger and driver safety.
The Shropshire Star reports that taxi and private hire drivers in Telford are to be trained by the company police forces use to give speed awareness courses.
From this month, anybody applying for a licence from the council will have to undergo an hour of training before taking an extensive exam on rules and regulations on becoming a taxi or private hire driver, plus a practical driving test.
TTC Group, which will run the Knowledge and Driving Standards Test, aims to explore some of the challenges and scenarios facing the drivers, including the rules and regulations of holding a hackney carriage or private hire licence and how to report collisions.
This comes as the Department for Transport is currently in consultation on whether to enforce more extensive checks on taxi drivers in efforts to close loopholes in the system and ensure the safety of residents.
Angie Astley, assistant director of neighbourhood and customer services at Telford & Wrekin Council, said: “Our officers apply the highest standards when we license drivers, and our partnership with TTC is to ensure the safety of anyone using a taxi or private hire vehicle.
“Every driver applying for a licence with Telford & Wrekin Council will receive one hour of training with an experienced road safety expert before sitting a Knowledge Test on what it means to be a taxi or private hire driver and the behaviour expected of them.
“Prior to any licence being granted, drivers must pass this test in addition to taking and passing the Driving Standards test, which is a one-hour practical exam on the road.
“If you book a private hire vehicle or hail a taxi that has been licensed by Telford & Wrekin Council, you should be safe in the knowledge that they meet our high standards – our officers will act on anyone who doesn’t.”
Spot checks conducted in Telford by police officers last year resulted in three private hire drivers facing enforcement action for picking up unbooked fares.
Andy Wheeler, business development director at TTC Group, said: “We have a proven track record in improving driving safety and behaviour and this latest contract will tap into our expertise and systems to help Telford & Wrekin Council ensure every taxi driver on local roads has gone through the right knowledge and practical driving tests.
“Hopefully, the individuals looking to secure their badges will also benefit from the new approach, advice and guidance we can offer.
“Education can play a crucial role in improving the safety of our roads.”
It is our sad duty to advise of the recent passing of Dennis Conyon after a short illness.
Dennis was the founding Chairman of the National Taxi Association and a long time member and executive of the previous National Federation of Taxicab Associations (NFTA).
Dennis sat on various advisory committees to government including DPTAC.
The thoughts of our Chairman, Directors and members are with his family during this sad time.
The funeral arrangements are as follows:
The funeral service will be held at Vinters Park Crematorium, Maidstone on Thursday 21st February 2019 at 11am.
(Vinters Park Crematorium, Bearstead Road, Maidstone, ME14 5LG)
A wake will take place at the Hilton Hotel, Maidstone following the funeral service.
EXTRA SUPPORT FOR NTA TAXI DRIVERS UNDER PRESSURE TO CUT EMISSIONS
The National Taxi Association (NTA) has partnered up with a specialist in emissions-busting fuel additives to support members in drastically cutting their toxic fumes.
Private hire and Hackney cab drivers are under mounting pressure to reduce their dangerous emissions, especially those operating in designated Clean Air Zones (CAZ).
To support members, the NTA has secured a discount of 30% off Cataclean, which can reduce emissions by up to 60%, following testing of the product with cabs in Liverpool.
Four separate tests with seven of the city’s Hackney cabs collectively driving over 500,000 miles a year were carried out by Unite the Union Liverpool taxi branch between March and July to see how much deadly gas could be cut by adding it to the tank every six weeks.
Levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) came down by 28%, while carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (Co2) and hydrocarbons were cut by up to 70%.
Crucially, after the taxi testing in Liverpool, drivers reported their MPG improved by 2-3p per mile, saving the average driver driving 4,000 miles a month around £850 per year.
The testing supports the NHS-backed Let’s Clear the Air Liverpool campaign, which aims to improve the city’s air quality after it was branded one of five Clean Air Zones in the UK. Unite the Union is now encouraging its taxi driver members to use Cataclean as part of their regular vehicle maintenance.
Manchester-based NTA chairman Paul Brent said he was keen to secure a member discount with Cataclean after a personal test-drive produced “incredible” results.
“My TX2 taxi had failed its MOT on emissions, which was disappointing, and I added Cataclean’s diesel fuel treatment before the next MOT test to ¼ tank of fuel, drove for 20kms and filled up,” he said. “Two days later, I passed the test with flying colours, showing an incredible improvement down to 0.55.
“We know our members are feeling the pressure to bring down their emissions and I thoroughly recommend they add a 500ml bottle of Cataclean to their vehicles at every 10,000 mile service. Doing this, they can bring down their dangerous emissions, help their vehicle run cleaner, improve overall performance and fuel economy and ensure there are no expensive problems caused by DPF blockages.”
Mike Harrison from Cataclean said: “We hope the discount makes a difference to both private hire and Hackney cab drivers, particularly those who are facing the added expense of paying to drive in Clean Air Zones, which can make it expensive for a taxi to operate.”
Cataclean differs from other products of its type in that it cleans, restores and protects the entire engine, fuel and exhaust system, blitzing resin and carbon deposits from fuel injectors, intake valves, DPF, catalytic converter and exhaust. Long term use protects against build-ups and clogging to prevent failure of engines and exhaust systems.
NTA members can take advantage of the 30% discount which can be purchased at all branches of Euro Car Parts. To qualify for the discount, you will need to show your NTA membership card.
For more information, please visit www.cataclean.com. To see exactly how Cataclean with its patented formula works, please visit https://vimeo.com/292692183.
This report presents the views and recommendations of the Task and Finish Group’s Chair on taxi and private hire vehicle licensing.
The substantial increase is set to hit black cab customers in Wirral across all tariffs following a consultation with drivers.
It came as results from a survey about cabs in the area revealed what a difficult position the industry is in – including insufficient demand, fears visitors to the area will not return because of bad experiences, and potential crime caused by a lack of night time services.
Two separate documents are set to be discussed by Wirral council’s licensing, health and safety and general purposes committee when it meets on September 19.
The first of those – a review of Hackney carriage fares – has revealed how they are set for a significant rise – some by as much as 37.5%.
That will mean a one-mile journey on the night tariff will increase from £4.30 to £5.40 – by 25.6%,
Other fare rises aren’t so steep but are still going up – a one mile journey on the normal day rate tariff will rise from £4 to £4.60.
For a one-mile trip on public and bank holidays, that will mean a 14.3% increase from £4.90 to £5.60, while on the Christmas and New Year tariff, that will see a huge 37.5% rise – from £6.40 to £8.80.
Several representations from industry figures were made to the council over the proposals, with both supporting and opposing views submitted.
One said the proposed increases were “excessive”, adding that it will lead customers to seek alternative transport options.
The letter said that the proposals were made by a “small minority” of union members, adding: “I personally believe that what with the financial pressure some of our customers are under, to ask for this increase shows a total lack of common sense.”
Another letter to be discussed by councillors was from a private hire operator, who wrote that the changes “will assist us greatly”. He said “ill-conceived and unsustainable” Hackney carriage fare structures through the Liverpool city region meant private hire services already dominate “more than 80% of the Merseyside taxi market”.
He added the rise meant private hire would be able to corner the “remaining 20%” of their target market.
Members will be asked to consider the representations received by the council, and decide whether to bring in the new fares.
Also at the meeting, the committee will discuss a survey about the supply and demand for Hackney carriage vehicles in the borough.
That survey came out with the following observations:
Police officers felt there was a weekend and overnight “shortage” of both Hackney carriage and private hire in the area and, as they told the survey, “that did lead to potential issues of crime and disorder”.
It suggested there was “insufficient demand” for the current Hackney carriage fleet, although many “gain significant fares” from phone orders.
There were no “significant” levels of unmet demand, but said a lot of the off-peak demand was by phone rather than people going to ranks. But there does not appear to be “enough sufficiently rewarding work available either for these pockets of demand to be met by either Hackney carriage or private hire means.”
Asda in Birkenhead was the busiest rank, with the next two busiest Claughton Road and Liscard.
The night rank Conway Street provided just 3% of total estimated weekly passengers.
Of six ranks surveyed, one saw “poor” service, one was “fair”, and all others were “good” or “very good”.
The only request for a new rank was for locations in New Brighton.
People interviewed said they were more confident of getting a Hackney carriage in the day than at night, with 14% of those surveyed saying they could not get one. People were also unaware they could flag down a black cab.
There are currently 258 licensed vehicles out of a current limit of 289.
Mystery shoppers found good service from ranks and on trips taken.
Hackney carriage drivers told the survey the limit on that number “should be retained”.
The demand in Wirral is “generally both disparate and low volume”, but there are “frustrated” potential customers who need the service to benefit Wirral’s economy. It said the impact from that was that there was a “very high potential” people visiting the area would have poor experiences that may prevent them from coming back.
It added: “The issue is how to marry supply to demand at these lower levels. Something needs to happen to reverse the spiral of decline.”
The committee members will be asked whether they want to continue the policy of limiting Hackney carriage vehicle numbers, or to remove the policy “in order to allow further future development of the fleet when required”.
That question will also be put to a public consultation.
Syed Al Miah recently appeared at Exeter Magistrates Court after launching an appeal against East Devon District Council’s decision to take away his licence following a complaint.
It was alleged he had refused to transport two visually impaired people and their guide dogs in his vehicle after they had requested a taxi to take them from a hotel to the train station in December 2017.
The court was told when the taxi driver arrived at the hotel, he informed hotel staff and the two customers he would not take the dogs and drove away.
It was heard Miah, of Birchwood Avenue, Weston Super Mare, had changed his story on several occasions.
At interview he said he was scared of the dogs, but at a licensing hearing he stated for safety reasons he believed his vehicle not to be big enough, despite it being licensed to carry five passengers.
At the appeal hearing he claimed when arriving at the hotel he wasn’t sure if he had attended the correct job.
During an investigation into the complaint by the council, officers established he had not operated as a taxi driver in East Devon at any point since obtaining his licence from the district council in 2016, but instead had worked from North Somerset where the incident occurred.
East Devon’s licensing sub-committee decided to revoke the taxi driver’s licence as they felt he was no longer considered as a fit and proper person to hold the licence due to his actions, and he did not operate as a taxi driver in East Devon.
Councils have legal powers to suspend or revoke the licence of a taxi driver on certain grounds and all councils granting licences to taxi drivers need to be satisfied that the person is fit and proper.
The Equality Act 2010 sets out the legal duty of taxi drivers to carry assistance dogs ensuring they do not discriminate against any person because of disability and to carry a disabled person’s dog by allowing it to remain with the person and not to make any additional charge for doing so. Refusal to carry registered assistance dogs without an exemption certificate is a strict liability offence.
Exeter magistrates found in favour of the council and the decision it had made to take Miah’s licence away.
Following the court hearing, Cllr Steve Hall, chairman of East Devon District Council’s licensing sub-committee, said: “The council recognises the serious nature of these allegations and the impact upon those individuals being refused transport.
“I’m pleased to say that the magistrates agreed with our approach and we will not hesitate to defend further appeals of this nature to ensure that the public receives a fair service. The safety of our public is paramount.”
City cabbie Erik Thoresen, from Lochee, had asked to stop using a wheelchair-accessible vehicle in May 2016 – but his application was rejected by Dundee City Council.
In his appeal, heard at Dundee Sheriff Court, Mr Thoresen claimed that the authority’s “mixed use” taxi policy – which maintains a 60/40 split between wheelchair-accessible vehicles and saloons across the city – was unfair.
However, Sheriff George Way has ruled that the council’s licensing committee had laid out its reasons for rejecting his application in a “straightforward manner”.
It marks a dramatic shift in stance for Mr Thoresen, who had previously called for all taxis in Dundee to be wheelchair-accessible when he was chairman of the Dundee Hackney Association.
When he applied for his licence in 2004, he accepted the council’s requirement that he have a car that was wheelchair-accessible.
However, in submissions to Sheriff Way, Mr Thoresen said he wished to stop driving a wheelchair-accessible vehicle because of the higher costs associated with them compared to normal saloons.
Dundee City Council had previously committed to the introduction of an “economic fairness mechanism” in order to balance costs between saloon drivers and wheelchair-accessible drivers.
He claimed the council had not operated this policy fairly.
However, the local authority contended that it had considered Mr Thoresen’s application on its merits, which it said were “self-evidently poor”.
Sheriff Way concluded that the licensing committee did not act in an “unreasonable manner” in refusing the cabbie’s request.
He said: “I can find no evidence, that persuades me, that the committee did not act in a rational and fair way towards the applicant.
“The bar that the pursuer must overcome is a high one… I simply cannot hold that the high bar has been crossed.”
Mr Thoresen was represented by the GMB union, which will now be held liable for Dundee City Council’s legal fees for the case.
A GMB spokesman said: “In light of the decision the judgment is currently being reviewed by our legal team, following which our next steps will be considered.
“All fees for legal representation are met centrally by the GMB itself.”