To consider a report of the Chief Officer, Elections and Regulatory which explains the current state of cross-border working as observed in Leeds, including vehicles not licensed in Leeds and recorded by the council as likely to be working in Leeds, and others licensed in Leeds but likely to be working elsewhere.
The report also seeks to inform Members of the range of responses which are available to different areas of government, and to the trade itself. This may include additional licensing conditions, in the absence of UK legislation.
The Chief Officer, Elections and Regulatory submitted a report which provided an overview of cross-border working, and the response from Central Government, various Working Groups, Taxi and Private Hire Operators and Licensing Authorities in the UK.
The Taxi & Private Hire Licensing Manager explained that taxi and private hire vehicles had been able to work away from their licensing district because of changes in the use of technology and since deregulation of some areas of taxi and private hire licensing in 2015. Private hire vehicles licensed by other authorities (including some which do not border Leeds) were a common sight in Leeds.
Members noted that, whilst these vehicles could add to the supply of vehicles and customer convenience, there were a range of issues which could have implications for the taxi and private hire trade, licensing authorities and central government.
The Taxi & Private Hire Licensing Managerreported that there had been a rise in cross-border working in Leeds and West Yorkshire in recent years which had highlighted a number of issues:
· Observed and recorded vehicles – other licensing authorities in Leeds, and Leeds in other authorities;
· Driver licences and home postcodes;
· The effect of regional geo-fencing;
· Perceptions/views on cross-border working;
· The implications for licensing authorities;
· Current licensing and enforcement responses, including West Yorkshire & York; and
· Possible future licensing and enforcement responses.
Reference was made to the use of smartphone apps which enabled customers to book and pay for their taxi/ private hire journeys using their phones. Members queried if the technology/ operator was able to allocate a local driver to a local booking.
In responding the Taxi & Private Hire Licensing Manager said there was no reason why a local driver could not be allocated to a local booking, but operators would need to change their operating methods to allow customers to preference a local driver.
It was suggested by Members that Leeds had robust driver/ operating conditions, could the same operating conditions be imposed on national operators working in Leeds.
Members were informed that national operators working in Leeds could be asked to change their operating conditions but it was a question of public safety and evidence was required if operating conditions were to change.
Members queried the number of drivers registered in Leeds but who did not have an LS postcode
Members were informed that of 4,983 current taxi and private hire drivers renewing their licence with Leeds in 2019, just over 55% (2,738) lived at a ‘Leeds’ or LS postcode, with 36% (1,814) living in Bradford or a BD postcode, with just over 2% living elsewhere in West Yorkshire (62 at an HX postcode, 42 at an HD postcode and 8 at a WF postcode).
Members queried why drivers working in Leeds would seek to register elsewhere.
Members were informed that the driver operating standards/ conditions were far more robust in Leeds than some other smaller authorities who did not necessarily have the resources to operate to the same standards as Leeds
Commenting on the effect of reginal geo-fencing, Members were informed that Transport for London (TfL) had successfully introduced geo-fencing, the intention was now to progress the issue at a West Yorkshire & City of York harmonisation Working Group.
Members were generally supportive of geo-fencing, but suggested more district working would be welcomed to address cross border working.
Commenting on the perception/ views on cross-border working, officers acknowledge this was a highly divisive issue in the taxi and private hire trade, who were of the view that the law had not kept pace with the modernisation of the taxi/ private hire car industry.
Referring to the implications for licensing authorities, the Taxi & Private Hire Licensing Manager said there was now a lot of pressure on local authorities to ensure vehicles checks were undertaken but this was difficult when drivers were operating outside their registered area, there was a lack of national enforcement powers.
On the issue of enforcement action, Members referred to an unofficial taxi rank to the side of the Leeds Railway Station where private hire vehicles would wait “plying for hire”. Members asked what action was been taken to address the issue.
Members were informed that officers carried out enforcement duties within the city centre, the current conviction rate was 10%. It was often the case that after dropping off at the Railway Station, drivers would then wait until they had another fare.
Trade representatives in attendance at the meeting and invited to speak by the Chair said, the taxi/ private hire fleet had increased substantially over the years, there was now a need for more enforcement officers which should be funded via the licence fees.
Referring to operational control the Chair asked if other authorities were looking to address cross-border issues.
Members were informed that large authorities with a Mayor were seeking to develop the same licensing regime.
Commenting on the issue of “more forensic check of journey records of out of town vehicles” the Taxi & Private Hire Licensing Manager said such information was difficult to obtain and also it was difficult to know if it was accurate.
Additional conditions on app based operators – Members were informed that such conditions would allow customers to preference a local driver, but it was understood there was little interest from members of the public.
The Chair thanked Members, the Trade and officers for their contributions, suggesting further updates on cross-border working would be provided in due course.
(i) To note the current position on cross-border working as observed in Leeds, including vehicles not licensed in Leeds and recorded by the council as likely to be working in Leeds, and others licensed in Leeds but likely to be working elsewhere.
(ii) To note the range of responses which are available to different areas of government, and to the trade itself, including additional licensing conditions, in the absence of UK legislation.