To seek approval for a process of public engagement to be undertaken on the proposed updated North Tyneside Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy; and at the conclusion of the consultation period the draft Policy to be brought before Cabinet for its consideration.
Cabinet considered a report seeking approval to undertake public consultation on an amended North Tyneside Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy.
The Authority was the licensing authority for hackney carriages (taxis) and private hire vehicles (PHVs), their drivers and their operators, for the Borough. The overall aim of the licensing scheme was to ensure the safety of the public.
The North Tyneside Transport Strategy, approved by Cabinet in May 2017, commits to managing North Tyneside’s transport network effectively, considering all forms of travel including taxis and PHVs and sets out how the Authority would support the safeguarding of vulnerable people, such as through hackney carriage and private hire licensing policies and the design of infrastructure.
The North Tyneside Local Plan notes that taxis and PHVs would continue to play an important role in the wider transport network and that opportunities to integrate them with other modes of transport would be explored. The regional North-East Transport Manifesto sets out objectives to integrate taxis into the public transport network with better interchange and information, ensure high standards of licensing and provision, and encourage greater use of low emission technologies in taxi fleets.
The Authority licensed around 141 taxis, 651 PHVs, 878 drivers and 19 operators in the Borough. These licenses had been granted in accordance with national legislation and consideration of the Policy. The licensing service was based at the Killingworth site, and it was responsible for administrating and enforcing the licensing scheme. The Policy included information on legal requirements, procedures and standards relevant to taxi and PHV licensing. The Policy was last reviewed in February 2020 prior to the release of the new Statutory National Standards for taxis and private hire vehicles.
The legislation which governed taxi and PHV licensing had been in place for a considerable period of time. This had been subject to previous review and amendment and in 2014, the Law Commission was asked by the Government to consider the legislation relating to taxis and PHVs. Whilst the Law Commission’s report acknowledged that the licensing of taxis and PHVs was a “fiercely local” matter, it nevertheless recommended the introduction of national standards.
Some of the recommended changes were introduced through the Deregulation Act 2015, for example: extending licences from one year to three years, and allowing sub-contracting between operators.
The current Policy was updated in February 2020, subsequent to this in July 2020 the Department for Transport (DfT) produced the Standards under the Policing and Crime Act 2017 which, as stated, the Department expected to be implemented by all licensing authorities.
The Government had issued statutory taxi and private hire vehicle minimum standards to licensing authorities entitled, ’Statutory Taxi & Private Hire Vehicle Standards’ (“the Standards”). The Standards outlined how licensing authorities should carry out their licensing functions in relation to Hackney Carriage (taxis) and Private Hire vehicles, drivers and where appropriate operators. Although the minimum standards focused on protecting children and vulnerable adults, all passengers would benefit from the application of the Standards.
It was clear that central government expected the recommendations contained in the Standards to be implemented unless there was a compelling local reason not to. As a result of that expectation, it had been necessary for the Authority to review its Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy (“the Policy”) in light of the recommendations contained in the Standards. It was in this context that a review of the Policy was commenced.
An officer working group was set up to commence the review of the Policy and make the required amendments to the Policy to reflect the new Statutory Standards.
As part of the consultation process the views of all Members of the Authority would be sought. To this end, the Monitoring Officer at the start of the consultation period would write to all Members inviting them to make any comments they had on the Policy and to forward those to the Public Protection Manager. This would enable any views received from Members and/or the Regulation and Review Committee together with any other consultation responses to be taken into account when the decision on adopting the Policy was taken by Cabinet.
A revised draft Policy for consultation purposes had been formulated and this was included in Appendix 1 to the report.
The key amendments proposed to the Policy included:
· Introduction of Basic Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) criminal record check for vehicle proprietors
· Requirement of operators to maintain a register of booking staff and confirmation they have had sight of a Basic DBS certificate for such staff
· Periods for individuals to be free of convictions to be able to hold a licence has changed in line with the Standards
· New Passenger Guidance document
· The Authority making a referral to the DBS and the police following refusal/revocation of a driver’s licence where appropriate.
A summary of the amendments was included in Appendix 2 to the report.
It was proposed that a process of public engagement on the proposed updated Policy would commence on 7 February 2022 for 6 weeks. This would include appropriate engagement through the Engagement Hub with residents and businesses including representatives of the taxi and PHV trade; Regulation and Review Committee; and all Members.
At the conclusion of the consultation period the draft Policy would be brought before Cabinet for its consideration.
Cabinet considered the following decision options: to accept the recommendations as set out in paragraph 1.2 of the report, or alternatively, to not approve the recommendations.
Resolved that (1) the Director of Environment, Housing and Leisure, be authorised to commence public consultation on the revised draft North Tyneside Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy at Appendix 1 to the report; and
(2) at the conclusion of the public consultation period the draft North Tyneside Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy be brought before Cabinet for its consideration.
(Reason for decision: To ensure that the existing Policy is updated in accordance with the Standards. This will also ensure that the Policy remains transparent, accountable, proportionate and consistent.)