To consider a report of the Chief Officer, Elections and Regulatory which provides an update on the purpose and progress of the taxi and private hire policy harmonisation across the six authorities.
The aim of the collaboration is for the authorities to work more closely together to strengthen any areas of weakness in licensing or enforcement across the region, which would place the travelling public at risk.
The Chief Officer, Elections and Regulatory submitted a report which provided an update on the purpose and progress of the taxi and private hire policy harmonisation across the six authorities.
The Taxi & Private Hire Licensing Manager explained that the primary aim of the West Yorkshire and City of York authorities was to increase or strengthen the standards of some authorities to meet an agreed minimum standard, so that there was no weak licensing link in the region, which would affect passengers throughout the region because of the prevalence of cross-border journeys and cross border working.
Members were informed it would still be possible for an authority to have standards above the minimum, for example where local circumstances required, but all authorities would be at or above the agreed minimum standard for:
· CCTV in vehicles;
· Convictions policy;
· Vehicle specifications;
· Driver training;
· Information sharing between authorities; and
· Effective cross-border enforcement.
Section 3.10 of the submitted report provided an update on each of the above areas
Referring to CCTV in vehicles, Members queried if drivers were supportive of the scheme.
The Taxi & Private Hire Licensing Manager said the use of CCTV in vehicles was welcomed by both drivers and operators. There were a number of issues to be addressed around funding of the equipment and a preferred supplier of the equipment was still to be identified.
On the issue of the Convictions/ Suitability Policy Members were informed that all six authorities have now agreed to implement very similar Suitability and Convictions policies, based on that developed by the Institute of Licensing, Lawyers for Local Government, National Association of Licensing and Enforcement Officers. Five authorities consulted between November 2018 and January 2019, and developed a policy which departed from the national policy guidance. Bradford City Council did not undertake consultation, but engaged with the local licensed trade, and its February 2019 Regulatory Committee in January 2019 planned to adopt the policy for new applicants, but amended paragraph 17 to state would not apply it at renewal. Calderdale, Kirklees, Wakefield and York adopted the new policy between May and September 2019. Leeds adopted the policy, with a number of additions in October 2019.
Members were informed that work on Vehicle Comfort and Passenger Safety was ongoing but more work was required. It was reported that significant work had been undertaken to identify those elements in each of the six authority vehicle specifications which relate to safety and passenger comfort including the vehicle testing regimes and to assess the feasibility of harmonising them.
The Taxi & Private Hire Licensing Managerreported that a draft Driver Training Policy was agreed across the area to include requirements to undertake training in a range of areas including tests as necessary (for example, an English Test). Five of the six authorities agreed to go out to consultation on the draft policy. The consultation exercises concluded in January 2019. The responses have been considered collectively and appropriate amendments made. The final policy were considered by the five Councils between March and July 2019 for adoption for new drivers on 1st September 2019 and for drivers on renewal from a date to be determined in 2020.
In respect of Information Sharing Members noted that all six authorities were regularly sharing information; enforcement action, investigating complaints, and concerns about previously refused and revoked drivers. All six Authorities were expected to sign up to the new National Register (NR3) which holds information of all refusals and revocations of taxi and private hire driver licences.
On the issue of Cross Border Enforcement, Members noted that all six authorities amended their constitutions to authorise enforcement officers from the other authorities to take some action against their own drivers and vehicles. This authorisation falls short of the national enforcement powers recommended in the 2018 Task and Finish group report (which specified that an enforcement officer could take full enforcement action against any licensed vehicle or driver anywhere in the UK),
In terms of future regional co-operation and collaboration, Members were informed that the Statutory Guidance on Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing: Protecting Users, which was consulted upon by the Department for Transport between February and April 2019 was likely to be issued in the new year.
Members welcomed the update on the Policy Harmonisation, commenting that this was an important issue which was all about passenger safety, the harmonisation process had been ongoing for some considerable time now and was important that it soon reaches conclusion, had a timescale for its conclusion been identified yet.
In responding the Taxi & Private Hire Licensing Manager said Leeds had led in progressing the matter but it required the support of other authorities to bring the issue to conclusion.
(i) To note the objectives and progress made on policy harmonisation in West Yorkshire and City of York Authorities
(ii) To note the remaining objectives and possible future areas of co-operation, collaboration and implications for the work programme, finance and resources