Councils must consider use of vehicles before licensing
This was the conclusion of Christopher Symons QC when giving judgement in the High Court judicial review claim brought by Newcastle city council against Berwick-upon-Tweed borough council.
Berwick in exercising its discretion under section 37 of the 1847 Act to grant hackney carriage vehicle licences should take into account where the vehicles will be used, the court held. Hackney carriages are being licensed in Berwick then used for private hire work in the neighbouring district, Newcastle City.
The judge said: ‘The byelaws and conditions which apply to Berwick's hackney carriages are largely there to promote safety and to ensure the vehicles are easily identifiable. They are made and imposed to protect the public and in particular the public in the Berwick-upon-Tweed area. If the hackney carriages are used in areas remote from Berwick-upon-Tweed enforcement will be very difficult and impracticable. He continued: ‘…a local authority, properly directing itself, is entitled and indeed is obliged, to have regard to whether the applicant intends to use the licence to operate a hackney carriage in that authority's area, also having regard to whether the applicant intends to use the hackney carriage predominately, or entirely, remotely from the authority's area.
He added he was also anxious not to direct how Berwick or any other local authority should exercise their discretion, although he did not go so far as saying that Berwick's practise of issuing licences for hackney carriages outside of its area as being unlawful. He did not make a declaration as to whether Berwick had a policy to grant licences for use remote from their area.
At Wychavon, we already check that applicants for private hire licences have work with an operator licensed by us – so that private hire journeys either start or finish in Wychavon. In light of this Judge's decision, we will be amending our procedures to check that applicants for hackney carriage licences intend to work mainly or wholly within Wychavon and similarly that any private hire work that they undertake starts or finishes in our area.
New Amendments Announced
Three amendments affecting taxi licensing have been announced:
Last year, parliament passed the Road Safety Act 2006 which contained two provisions affecting hackney carriage and private hire vehicle licensing:
- a power to suspend or revoke drivers' licences with immediate effect
- the repeal of an exemption for vehicles providing services under contract for more than 7 days
The amendments have arisen because of three significant safety risks which needed to be addressed.
Suspending drivers' licences
The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 gives licensing authorities outside of London the power to suspend, revoke or refuse to renew hackney carriage and private hire vehicle drivers' licence for a number of reasons, including convictions for certain offences or for any other reasonable cause.
A decision to suspend or revoke a licence is however held in abeyance for a period of 21 days in which the driver may appeal to a magistrates' court, and subsequently until any such appeal is disposed of.
Section 52 of the Road Safety Act will give licensing authorities a power to immediately suspend or revoke a licence where they are of the opinion - which must be recorded - that the interests of public safety require such a course of action.
Repeal of the contract exemption
From January 2008, the historical exemption from licensing for drivers - and vehicles - hired under contract for not less than seven days was removed. A large number of vehicles and drivers from this previously unregulated sector now have to be licensed.
Disability Discrimination Act 2005 - Update
Since December 2006, people providing transport using taxis and private hire vehicles (transport providers") have had to actively avoid discrimination against disabled persons and must make reasonable adjustments to services that they offer. These services include timetables, booking facilities, tariffs, waiting rooms etc. at taxi offices, airports, ferry terminals, and bus, coach and rail stations.
The Government has not YET required accessible vehicles but we would recommend careful thought be given when considering buying a new vehicle for private or public hire use.
Our Disability Discrimination factsheet (25.87 KB) gives more information.
Disability Discrimination Act 1995 - Taxi Accessibility Regulations - What's new?
Government is implementing the taxi provision of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. There will be a rolling program from 2010-2020, setting standards for wheelchair access and a range of other features to help disabled people to use taxis.
Taxis in Wychavon will not be required to comply in the first phase - but guidance will be issued. Formal regulation may be introduced if the guidance is ignored.
We can provide customers with contact details for currently licensed wheelchair accessible taxis, on request.
Watch Out For Rogue Taxis
There are few complaints about licensed (or unlicensed) private hire or taxi" vehicles in Wychavon. But new, clearer and larger badges are being introduced in response to comments that the badges previously issued by us are too hard to read. We hope that the new plates and driver badges will make it easier for the public to identify properly licensed vehicles.
The new vehicle plates have a clear licence number, registration number and an expiry date. Drivers will be wearing a card with a clear driver number and photo.
The Licensing Team makes sure that all taxis, private hire vehicles, and their drivers are suitable, and are properly insured, before licences are issued. Under no circumstances should people be accepting lifts from strangers in unlicensed vehicles. This change will hopefully make it easier for the public to make simple checks before getting into a vehicle to ensure they are properly licensed.
Private Hire Vehicles are different to Taxis. Taxis (hackney carriages) can be hailed on the street, or hired from a rank; they have light blue licence plates. Private hire vehicles have to be pre-booked, they cannot be hired or hailed – they have yellow licence plates.
Passengers are entitled to see the driver's details (photo, badge and number) and should make a note of them, in case they lose property in the vehicle or have cause for complaint following a journey.
If you have any queries please contact the Licensing Team on 01386 565016.
All Licensing and Environmental Health Matters are now dealt with by Worcestershire Regulatory Services.
For direct public enquiries and referrals:
General Customer Enquiries
Worcestershire Hub on: 01905 822799
(Mon—Fri 8am—8pm, Sat 9am—5pm)