NTA response to Select committee enquiry into Cross Border Hiring

20th December 2010

 

 

Dear Sirs,

 

Transport Committee – Licensing of Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles

 

We act for the National Taxi Association and have been asked to respond to the consultation exercise now being undertaken. 

 

We are afraid that we have not heard until very recently about the Committee in question although we deem the work that it is to undertake of paramount importance in the industry. 

 

The points that we would make on behalf of the National Taxi Association are as follows:

  • The Association is aware that a number of private hire operators who have obtained operator’s licences fully aware of the limitations on those licences are choosing to try to increase their share of the market in circumstances where that could not have been in accordance with their original expectations.
  • The corollary of that is that hackney carriage proprietors who may have made very substantial investments in acquiring vehicles suitable, particularly, for carrying wheelchair passengers may find that their investment in the industry is frustrated by those who seek to change the existing legislation.
  • It is fair to say that although it is easy to come to the conclusion that the existing legislation is of a somewhat aged nature that legislation has held very good for many years.  The Town Police Clauses Act 1847 still governs matters in relation to hackney carriages and the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 governs private hire operations. 
  • What is important is to have a properly regulated industry and one where a distinction between two entirely different operations is clear.  As members of the Committee will be aware, only a hackney carriage can be hailed in the street.  A private hire vehicle can only be pre-booked and appropriate records of bookings have to be kept. 
  • The writer has recently seen a handout from a local private hire operator who has been licensed in North Tyneside Council and who has operated within that district.  The proprietor has acquired an operator’s licence in Newcastle Upon Tyne and wonders why the fleet cannot be essentially apportioned across the two authorities.  The reason for that is that when the operator acquired the licence in Newcastle Upon Tyne he was well aware that he could only operate, therefore, in Newcastle Upon Tyne.  The basic rule, and it is a very sensible rule, is that, in private hire, all three licences i.e. operator’s licence, vehicle licence and driver’s licence have to have been issued by the same local authority. 
  • The classic case on cross-border hiring is a case involving the operator referred to above (North Tyneside Council v Shanks).  What happened in that case was that the operator was licensed by North Tyneside Council.  It also had an operator’s licence from Newcastle Upon Tyne.  The business was run as one meaning that if a booking was made in North Tyneside a vehicle might be dispatched which was licensed by Newcastle.  That, of course, breaks all of the obvious rules that have governed matters and North Tyneside Council, quite rightly, refused to renew the operator’s licence on the basis that the operator had not been complying with Section 62(1) of the 1976 Act. 
  • The case effectively involved sub-contracting and the effect of it is that someone licensed in one district can only provide vehicles licensed in that district.  Moreover, if there is a need to sub-contract out the work the work can only be given to another operator licensed within the same district.  The position is clear enough from the legislation and it is perfectly clear that the object of that legislation is to protect the public. 
  • It would be impossible properly to look at these matters without looking at a problem that has occurred very noticeably in Newcastle Upon Tyne.  It gave rise to the case of R.(APP.Newcastle City Council) v Berwick – Upon – Tweed Borough Council (2008) EWHC 2369.  In that case it was held that if a licensing authority wanted to issue plates that were not going to be used in its own local authority then they would have to have a good reason to do so. 
  • Section 37 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 is clear in its terms.  What it says is this:

“the Commissioners may from time to time license to ply for hire within the prescribed distance, or if no distance is prescribed, within five miles from the General Post Office of the city, town or place to which the special Act refers, (which in that case shall be deemed the prescribed distance) such number of hackney coaches or carriages of any kind or description adapted to the carriage of persons as they think fit”.   

  • The prescribed distance is going to be essentially the area of the relevant licensing authority.  What happened in the Berwick case was that Berwick Council, for some reason, took it upon themselves to issue a large number of licences full well knowing that they were not going to be used within their own authority.  Indeed, our understanding is that they were specifically forbidden to be used within their authority.  These licences were hackney carriage vehicle licenses.  It is clear law that there is no need for an operator’s license when dealing with hackney carriages.  The result of this is that they were able to exploit that loophole creating a situation where:

 

  1.  
    1. Berwick had little interest in what was going on because of the fact that the vehicles were being used somewhere else; and
    2. Newcastle Upon Tyne where a very large number of these vehicles were being operated, could not enforce because they were not the licensing authority. 
    3. This was, perhaps, an ingenious way of trying to secure a commercial advantage.  It is perceived that this could not possibly be in the interests of the public for the following reason:

 

                                          i.    The primary reason for adopting this device, especially given the fact that any vehicles operating within Newcastle Upon Tyne could quite easily have obtained private hire licences, was to deal with a local authority whose fees were lower.

                                         ii.    There were issues as to how rigorous CRB checks were and this is of course an essential protection of the public.

                                        iii.    There were questions as to whether the vehicle testing arrangements were of a sufficiently high standard.  They were certainly not to the standard that would have been adopted by Newcastle Upon Tyne.

                                       iv.    There would be no effective locality test because the licensing authority would be Berwick and, of course, knowledge of the Berwick locality would be completely irrelevant to someone operating in Newcastle.

 

  • It seems therefore that all that was going on here was a scheme to enhance the commercial position of various local operators at what would certainly appear to be some risk to the public. 

  • Of course, there is nothing to stop a member of the public having a vehicle of his choice.  A person who lives in the area of North Tyneside Council could quite legitimately book a vehicle licensed in Newcastle to carry him.  The point there is that the booking was made where the operator was licensed.  There is no question, therefore, of the public being denied freedom of choice.  It is simply a question of not breaking the rules which are obvious in their terms. 
  • In short, the present case law and also the present legislation is extremely straightforward.  The only extent to which it has become less than straightforward is insofar as various operators, all over the country, have looked at ways of trying to circumvent the rules and to do this in such a way as, quite simply, to give them commercial advantage.  It would be very difficult to argue that they are, in so doing, especially if we look at what was going on in relation to the Berwick plates, looking to enhance the interests of the public. 
  • The Association do not believe that there is any pressing need or indeed any need at all for a change in legislation.  It is easy, as mentioned above, to say that this legislation is old.  So is the Wills Act which has served the public since 1837 subject to relatively minor amendments over the years.  So is the Law of Property Act which has served the public since 1925 and which still remains substantially in the same form. 
  • The Association would be happy to make any further representations that may be invited or to assist the Committee in any way.  Their concern is to ensure that there is clear and effective legislation, notwithstanding efforts that seem to be made to cloud that legislation with ingenious but equally ingenuous schemes.  What the Association seek to see is that the public are protected and that the standard of service given to the public is heightened.  It is imperative that the following matters are always carefully monitored: 

 

  1.  
    1. The quality of the vehicle.
    2. The behaviour of the driver.
    3. The character of the driver which, of course, is something that must be the subject of the appropriate CRB check.
    4. The way in which the business is conducted. 

 

At the present time all of these matters are addressed effectively by virtually all of the local authorities with whom the Association deal.  Most administrative matters are better dealt with at a local rather than a national level.  

 

  • The Association believes that it would be a major task to review the law in relation to taxis and private hire vehicles in its entirety but believes that that is in any event quite unnecessary.  It believes that the protection of the public is paramount and that schemes to circumvent the existing simple legislation are not in the best interests of the public. 

 

 

Yours faithfully,

 

NATIONAL TAXI ASSOCIATION

New policy leaves Rossendale taxi drivers concerned

TAXI drivers in Rossendale have expressed concern over the introduction of a new policy covering their licences.

A draft policy, setting out the council’s views on private hire operators within the borough, is to be approved by councillors later this month.

The document covers measures that relate to the licensing of drivers, vehicles and taxi operators that the council and firms must adhere to.

But the controversial ‘penalty points scheme’, which saw more than 160 taxi drivers stage a protest on the Town Hall car park last October, has been shelved.

Rossendale Taxi Association has sent a letter to the council citing a number of concerns about the policy. Drivers are concerned about issues such as having to retake their DSA test if they get six penalty points, dress codes and tests on vehicles.

Glenn Bulcock, chairman of the association, said: “We have a lot of concerns about the policy. We will be challenging around 50 per cent of it.

“Around 100 drivers could be attending the meeting and we will raise our concerns to the council then.”

Stuart Sugarman, Rossendale Coun-cil’s director of business, said: “Rossendale Council does not have a written taxi licensing policy nor any published procedures outlining how it deals with various aspects of vehicle, driver and operator licensing. There are, of course, procedures in place.”

The licensing committee will consider the new policy at its next meeting on Monday.

source: http://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/

Tough taxi rules to protect passengers

Stricter controls - people convicted of murder, manslaugher and sex offences will not be given a cab licence under new guidelines
Stricter controls - people convicted of murder, manslaugher and sex offences will not be given a cab licence under new guidelines

TOUGH new rules will ensure people convicted of serious sexual or violent offences are prevented from driving taxis.

Basildon Council’s Licensing Committee will consider stricter guidelines surrounding who should be denied a taxi licence tomorrow.

These will make sure drivers with a conviction for rape, sex assaults, or sexual offences involving children, are barred.

Applications will also not be considered for at least three years after convictions for lesser sexual offences, including indecent exposure and kerb-crawling.

The aim is to protect passengers in the district and it has been welcomed by cab drivers around the town. Steve Foster, who owns Basildon company A & B Taxis, said: “People should be stopped from driving taxis if they’ve committed a serious enough offence.

“I’m sure my daughter wouldn’t want a convicted murderer driving her around in the middle of the night.”

The new rules are more specific than previous regulations.

Licences will be denied to drivers with convictions for murder, manslaughter, or terrorism offences.

Applicants will be barred for three years after conviction for possession of a dangerous weapon.

However, the rules appear to have been relaxed over drink-driving offences.

Long-term Basildon cabbie Ralph Morgan, 67, added: “I actually think they should be harder on people convicted of drink-driving.

“These new rules are all very sensible, so long as they are properly enforced. The council hasn’t been very good at doing that in the past, because it’s licensing department is too short-staffed.”

Under the new regulations drivers can still apply to drive taxis after a first conviction for drink-driving.

However, it states: “More than one conviction for these offences raises significant doubts as to the applicant’s fitness to drive the public. At least three years after the restoration of the driving licence following a second drink-drive conviction should elapse before an application will be considered.”

Under the previous rules, drivers had to wait at least three years after their first drink-driving conviction before applying.

source: http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/

Postal delays caused Norwich taxi driver to lose his job

Frustrated taxi driver Paul Arnold, who has been unable to work as his licence renewal did not reach Norwich City Council in time for processing. He is upset that he can now not work because of the postal delay that has robbed him of his livelihood

A Norwich taxi driver spoke of how his “home life was ruined” after postal delays caused him to lose his job when his taxi licence was not renewed on time.

Paul Arnold, whose partner is six months pregnant, was told Norwich City Council would not renew his licence because it arrived two weeks late, despite the fact he sent it five days before it was due. And now the 30-year-old believes he could be set to lose up to £5,000 if he is out of work for the 13 weeks it can take to renew a taxi licence.

Mr Arnold of Woodyard Close, Mulbarton said: “I am willing to work, and I want to work, but because of some postal mistake along the way I have lost my livelihood.

“My other half is six months pregnant and I need all the money I can get at the moment to pay for the car, the house and god knows what other finances.”

The father-to-be, who worked for Norwich-based Best Way taxis, sent his licence renewal first class on December 8, but due to Royal Mail delays caused by snow, the letter did not reach the council until December 27.

The council told Mr Arnold that there was nothing they could do and he would have to apply for a new licence, which can cost upwards of £250 – £159 more than it costs to renew a taxi licence.

This means he will have to re-take the tests you need to be granted a licence, including a medical, a driving theory test, a knowledge test, and a criminal bureau check, which can 13 weeks to process.

Mr Arnold continued: “I called the Royal Mail to see if I could get some compensation. They said I used a standard service and they could only refund me the cost of a first class stamp.”

A spokesman for the Royal Mail said they would always encourage people whose items need guaranteed delivery to pay for a recorded service to make sure it is delivered on time.

Meanwhile, a spokesman from Norwich City Council said: “We send out reminder letters, about six weeks ahead of the renewal date. Legal guidance is very clear on lapsed licences which states that if a taxi licence has lapsed then a new licence must be applied for.”

source: http://www.eveningnews24.co.uk/news/

NTA announce accounts package for members

Dear Member,

 The National Taxi Association are continually looking to bring additional benefits and value to our members. To this end we are pleased to announce our endorsement of “Cab Accounts” as our recommended accounting partner.

Cab Accounts are one of the UK’s leading specialist Taxi Driver accountants. They provide a friendly, efficient and low cost Tax Return service, including provision of a free weekly ‘driver record’ book, or use of their easy to use CabSave accounting software.   

For members who prefer to deal with their own tax matters, the software is also available as a standalone product (including a free version).

The National Taxi Association has negotiated substantial discounts on our members’ behalf; please follow this link for full details:

http://www.cab-accounts.co.uk/nta-members-page

Regards

 Wayne Casey

Administration Officer

Wokingham taxi drivers call for licence cap

Taxi drivers in Berkshire have written to a council calling on it to cap the number of new licences it issues.

Drivers in Wokingham said there was not enough business to go round and trade was down by about 30%.

In the letter, the drivers said they were being forced to work longer hours for less financial gain.

Wokingham council said the number of licences issued in recent years had not increased significantly, but it would listen to concerns.

Imran Hussein, from the Hackney Carriage Drivers’ Association in Wokingham, warned drivers were struggling to afford living costs.

‘Saleable commodity’

He said: “Wokingham has no regulation in place, it is open so as long as you fill the criteria. Everyone is welcome.

“Adjoining local authorities, like Reading, Bracknell as well as Maidenhead, all have regulation in place which protects drivers’ livelihoods.

“It is a triple whammy of too many new incomers, high fuel prices and less demand due to money worries in the recession.”

In Wokingham, drivers need to pass a medical test, a Criminal Records Bureau check and provide two character references, as well as other checks.

Councillor Barrie Patman, chairman of the licensing committee on the Conservative-controlled Wokingham council, said: “The the total number of vehicles that we have got licensed has been roughly the same for the last three years.

“The government advice to us is not to do that [introduce a cap] because the taxi licences start to become a saleable commodity.

“But we will be prepared to talk to the drivers on this issue.”

source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-12159456

Safety breach taxi driver finally off the road

A Carlisle cab driver who was stripped of his taxi licence for safety breaches is finally off the road following a two-year legal battle.

James Douglas Jeffery, 41, had his licence revoked by the city council’s regulatory panel in January 2009.

Routine inspections found a catalogue of faults on his 2001-registered black cab.

The steering was suspect on six occasions, there were five counts of faulty brakes and lights, four instances of defective bodywork and three suspension faults.

The most recent inspection revealed two illegal tyres.

Councillor David Morton, who chairs the panel, said at the time that Mr Jeffery was not a “fit-and-proper person” to hold a hackney carriage licence.

Mr Jeffery’s appeal was dismissed by Carlisle magistrates in September 2009.

He appealed again to the Crown Court where Judge Barbara Forrester upheld the council’s decision last May.

His final throw, an application for judicial review, was dismissed by the Administrative Court on December 21.

Mr Jeffery, of Welsh Road, Harraby, was able to continue driving a taxi while his appeals were pending but did not use the black cab that was found to be faulty.

His licence has now been revoked and he has been ordered to pay £500 towards the council’s legal costs.

Source; http://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news/safety-breach-taxi-driver-finally-off-the-road-1.797345?referrerPath=news

Leeds cabbie stabbed in neck

A taxi driver may have escaped death by millimetres when he was stabbed in the neck by a mystery “passenger”. The motive for the south Leeds attack was still unclear last night and detectives were waiting for him to recover sufficiently to interview him about the shocking incident.

 

The private hire driver, who works for Speedline Taxis, was detained in hospital last night in a “stable” condition after detectives from City and Holbeck CID earlier launched a major inquiry to trace his attacker.

The 22-year-old victim suffered a serious wound to his neck in the incident believed to have occurred between 7pm and 8pm on Wednesday night in the Belle Isle area of Leeds.

The weapon used is believed to have missed vital areas which could have killed the man.

Police sealed off a long stretch of the newer section of the Middleton Ring Road, Belle Isle, overnight after launching enquiries and some hours later the taxi driver’s black Skoda car was still parked nearby in Hopes Farm Road covered by a police forensic protective tent.

Det Insp Paul Smith, of City and Holbeck CID, said: “Enquiries are very much ongoing and we are keen to trace anyone who saw a dark-coloured saloon private-hire car in the Middleton Ring Road area between 7pm and 8pm.

“Anyone with information is asked to contact City and Holbeck CID via 0845 6060606.”

Later Mr Mohammed Latif, a director of Speedline Taxis, Burmantofts, Leeds, said the injured driver was one of its staff. He had only recently married and had worked for the firm for about four or five weeks.

He understood the driver had undergone emergency surgery on his neck. It was believed a knife had possibly been used to inflict the wound, said Mr Latif. Police had told him that if the wound had been just millimetres to the side it could have been fatal.

Mr Latif said the driver was a Leeds man of Asian origin. He understood he may have earlier dropped a friend off before he was attacked.

Mr Latif added that sadly attacks on taxi drivers appeared to be no longer a rarity and it was concerning that Council funding previously provided to half-fund the installation of closed-circuit TV cameras in taxis was being withdrawn.

source: http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/

Free-for-all on adverts could pay for in-cab cameras

Driver Neal Storton, of Metro Taxis in Keighley in his car fitted with a camera

Strict rules on adverts carried on taxis and minicabs have been relaxed by Bradford Council to encourage CCTV systems to be fitted to the vehicles to help protect passengers and drivers.

Private hire firms will now be allowed to cover the entire bodywork of their cars with advertisements. Hackney Carriages will only have to keep the front door panels clear to display the city crest and green stripe.

In exchange, firms will have to commit to fitting CCTV systems in the vehicles within two years.

Previously, the Council had insisted CCTV was installed within a year and adverts were restricted to bonnets, back doors, back wing panels and boots. Bigger vehicles were only allowed them on bonnets, side panels on rear passenger doors and on a back panel.

The re-think has occurred because of the failure of the original policy to encourage take-up of CCTV.

No Hackney Carriage operators had applied for adverts since the guidelines were introduced in 2007. There has only been a limited response from private hire firms.

The Council’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee voted to adopt the revised policy yesterday.

Officers said CCTV could be installed in a vehicle from as little as £500 and hoped the new policy would give firms more time to generate advertising income to pay for equipment.

Committee member, Councillor Sajawal Hussain (Lab, City) said: “CCTV is essential. They should be installed for the safety of the drivers and, more importantly, the passengers.”

source: http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/

Taxi fee rise sparks rage

Plans to increase taxi licence fees has sparked anger.

Derbyshire Dales District Council is set to discuss proposals to raise Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing fees by 4.6 per cent, in the New Year.

The application fee for an operator’s licence, which is renewed every three years, will increase from £215.25 to £225.15, vehicle licence fees, which are renewed every year will increase to £268.00 from £256.00.

Tracey Shelton, of MJs Taxis in Wirksworth said: “I find this absolutely disgusting.

“How on earth do you expect us to keep carrying on paying out and paying out. The work isn’t there any more. Money is very tight”

The proposals, recommended for approval, will be discussed in Matlock Town Hall on Thursday January 6 at 6pm.

source; http://www.matlockmercury.co.uk/news/