MINUTES OF A MEETING OF THE REGULATORY COMMITTEE HELD AT COUNTY HALL, NEWPORT, ISLE OF WIGHT, ON TUESDAY, 16 MAY 2006 COMMENCING AT 4.00 PM
Cllrs Arthur Taylor (Chairman), Henry Adams, Ivan Bulwer, George Cameron, Mike Cunningham, Barbara Foster, Brian Mosdell, Lady Pigot, Susan Scoccia David Whittaker
Cllrs Muriel Miller, Julian Whittaker
THAT the Minutes of the meeting held on 17 January 2006 be confirmed.
8. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
There were no declarations at this time.
9. HACKNEY CARRIAGE AND PRIVATE HIRE LICENCE CONDITIONS
The Committee gave consideration to the adoption of Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licence conditions, the adoption of a Convictions Policy and consideration of a paper being submitted to Full Council in respect of Byelaws for Hackney Carriages.
Members were advised that the existing conditions and byelaws had not been fully reviewed since 1995. The proposed conditions were considered by the Committee to be both reasonable and necessary to achieve the aims of ensuring public safety, to improve overall standards in respect of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles, operators and drivers. They would also place all existing conditions, guidance and byelaws into one easily accessible and available document, providing consistency and transparency of decisions for all concerned.
It was important to note that conditions could be approved and applied to Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licences irrespective of whether the amalgamation of zones was approved by the Secretary of State for Transport. The amalgamation of zones only applied to Hackney Carriages not to Private Hire Vehicles or any of the licenses associated with them.
The Council believed that all Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles should be easily identifiable, accessible and safe. Public safety was paramount and the proposed conditions placed on each of the licence types should therefore reflect that.
In respect of byelaws a discussion paper had recently been published by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister which suggested that alternatives to byelaws should be considered by Local Authorities. By incorporating byelaws into the conditions for Hackney Carriage Proprietors and Drivers they would not suffer any criminal sanctions for breach of any of those conditions. These would be dealt with under the Environmental Health Enforcement Policy.
Officers had listened to concerns of members of the public and the Hackney Carriage Trade and also had regard to advice and guidance by the Department of Transport in respect of accessibility. As a result the draft conditions had been amended and the date for implementation changed from 1 January 2010 to 1 January 2015 with a review of that condition in 2010.
In respect of an age policy for vehicles it was considered a maximum age was important for reliability, safety and overall standards of vehicles that were licensed.
At present there was provision for members of the
Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Trade to speak on behalf of the Trade. The only trade association that existed on
IWTPA had raised concerns over the conduct of the consultation and believed they had been deprived of the opportunity to express their views.
The total number of conditions was 103, of those 88 were the same as the conditions, byelaws and guidance under which they currently operated. That left only 15 conditions which had been modified within the process, of those only 5 required action to be taken by existing licence holders. They had all been modified following discussion and agreement with the IWTPA at a meeting held on 29 March 2006. The remaining 10 conditions would only apply if a proprietor conducted a particular activity, but did not lay a requirement on them to do so.
The following amendments to the conditions were to be made :
Proposed Conditions for Hackney Carriage Proprietors
Paragraph 10.3 (d) After the word ‘renewal’ add the words ‘or replacement of that vehicle whichever is the later’.
Paragraph 8.3 (k) ‘Hackney Carriage Proprietors’ removed and replaced with ‘Private Hire Operators’.
Proposed Conditions for Private Hire Vehicle Licence
Paragraph 7.4 Remove the word ‘Taxi’ and insert ‘Private Hire Vehicle’.
Proposed Conditions for Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Driver’s Licence
Members were reminded that a colour condition was included within the conditions and if approved there was a recommendation that the colour silver for all vehicles should be adopted.
The Chairman advised members of the public that the Council’s Procedure Rules allowed them 15 minutes to ask questions and as 6 people had indicated that they wished to speak they would each be given 2½ minutes.
10. PUBLIC QUESTION TIME
Mr John Murphy asked if members had seen a copy of the Minute which had adopted the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 Part II of Medina Borough Council and South Wight Borough Council. That was a common procedure asked for in the Magistrates Court and he believed that before Members made a decision which could result in the trade going to the Magistrates Court, it might be advantageous to consider if the Minute could be produced. He then went on to quote court cases from various parts of the country relating to hackney carriage/private hire drivers licence conditions being attached to licences.
Mrs Jan Rounsevell believed that consultation meant sitting round a table and sorting out conditions. She asked if members had seen a copy of the Government’s Code of Practice on Consultation. There was a 6 point consultation criteria to be followed which advised that consultation should be held widely throughout the process and include feedback. Consultation should be for a period of 12 weeks and any information collected was then collated and put in a report, which was then circulated for another 6 weeks. She believed that the roadshow was not classed as a proper consultation and asked how many people had attended. She asked that a Working Party be established whereby members of the Trade could sit down and speak with the Portfolio Holder for Transport. She also questioned the colour of silver to be used with regard to taxis, and asked who classed the colour silver and was it the manufacturers colour or the eye of the beholder.
Mr I Porter asked if the Chairman or any of the committee had been members of the Licensing Committee in December 2003. He advised members that he had a D Plate which the Licensing Committee had refused to put back to a standard Hackney Carriage which was a saloon car with a disability seat/swivel seat. He asked if the Council were having wheelchair accessible vehicles or D Plates with swivel seats as well which were saloon cars.
Mr David Blake indicated that he did not know that the consultation had been going on until he had heard it on Isle of Wight Radio. He had then tried to find out about the consultation but had some difficultly accessing it on the computer so was unable to complete it in on line. He had eventually filled in a hard copy which had to be with the Licensing section by Monday, but then the deadline had been extended to Friday. He believed the Council were curtailing his rights with regard to the colour of his vehicles which he found unacceptable. He indicated he would like a further period of consultation to enable the trade to get together and find out what could be done for the whole trade. He had many customers who preferred the saloon car to the wheelchair accessible vehicle.
Mr Des White reported that he had spoken with Age Concern who were surprised to hear about the change from hackney carriage to wheelchair accessible vehicles. He told members that some people did not like the wheelchair accessible vehicles and found it difficult to get in and out of them. He advised that members of the public would like to see a variety of vehicles which would include both saloon cars and wheelchair accessible vehicles. He also believed that 2½ minutes in which the trade had to speak to the committee and put their point of view across was out or order.
Mrs Jan Rounsevell spoke for a second time as the other person who had asked to speak had withdrawn. She told the Committee she was disappointed with the way the consultation was done and urged members to read the Code of Consultation and the Way Forward on How to Consult. She was a member of the Quality Transport Partnership and had never seen Councillors or officers from the Licensing section at those meetings. She advised the Committee there was a wheelchair accessible vehicle in the Council’s car park and invited members to go and look at it. She informed members that D Plates were swivel seats in a taxi and that some people preferred that to the wheelchair accessible vehicles.
11. HACKNEY CARRIAGE AND PRIVATE HIRE LICENCE CONDITIONS
The Licensing Officer asked for an adjournment as he would like to take legal advice in respect of the questions raised.
The Chairman indicated that a 15 minute adjournment would be taken and it was suggested that the Committee go and look at the wheelchair accessible vehicle in the Council’s car park.
The Council’s Legal Officer advised Members that they would need to be careful that as they were in adjournment they should not discuss or debate any of the issues relevant to the meeting outside of the committee room.
The Committee reconvened whereupon the Council’s Legal Officer advised members that they were able to approve the conviction policy attached to the report, approve the support for the papers to be put to full council to revoke the byelaws subject to the resolution being found as highlighted in the question raised earlier in the meeting, and to agree in principle to the suggested conditions so they may be brought back at a future date to be ratified. The formal adoption of the conditions and the enabling powers from those sections needed to be adopted and proven to be adopted by the Council. The Council may have adopted them but they were not before the Committee as background papers and officers were not aware of their actual existence without further investigation.
At the discretion of the Chairman, members of the public were allowed to speak after the presentation of the report. According to the Constitution members of the public were given the opportunity to speak during Public Question Time which was why it was restricted to 15 minutes. In light of the impact the Committee thought it could have on the trade it was agreed that the trade could speak on this occasion after the presentation of the report. This was not an open forum for debate and there should not be an open dialogue between the Committee and members of the public. It was for the Committee to debate the evidence within the paper, the appendices attached to the back of the paper and the information that had been received during the meeting by way of oral reports.
In reply to the questions raised the Licensing Officer offered the following comments
(a) In response to the question of the wheelchair accessibility the issue was covered in the report. It was accepted that there were a number of disabilities that did not require people to be in a wheel chair, there were also members of the public that did not wish to travel in wheelchair accessible vehicles but preferred to travel in a saloon car. Officers had listened to concerns from members of the public and the IWTPA. As a result of those concerns conditions had been amended to allow an implementation date at of 2015 at the earliest. This date was due for review in 2010 with the trade it was also dependent on the Disability Discrimination Act.
(b) In respect of Hackney Carriage Drivers Licences, officers were fully aware that condition could not be applied to a hackney carriage driver and the only way of regulating hackney carriage drivers was by way of byelaws. That was considered in the report and the hackney carriage proprietors licence conditions placed responsibility on that person for the actions and conduct of their driver and therefore it was not felt it is necessary to impose further conditions on the driver as it was already covered by other conditions.
(c) On the issue of consultation, a full list of consultees had been provided along with a full outline of the consultation process. It was believed to be unnecessary to engage in any further consultation as the 6 week period was appropriate to the desired aims.
(d) Very few of the conditions had been changed and those that were changed were with consultation and agreement of the IWTPA.
(e) All existing vehicles which were licensed would continue to be licensed in exactly the same way as they were now, they would only come into force on exchange of that vehicle. There were therefore no financial implications involved in the adoption of the conditions and would only take effect when the vehicle was exchanged at the expiry of its natural life.
Members of the Committee were reminded that Age Concern was a consultee and a response had been received from them.
Mr Porter asked if swivel seats for the disabled would remain. He was told that all existing vehicles that were currently licensed would continue to be licensed in the same form until 2015. In 2010 a review of the wheelchair accessibility policy would be conducted in agreement between the IWTPA and the Licensing section. If at that time the Disability Discrimination Act did not come into being the swivel seat may continue to be licensed as they were at the present time.
Members of the Committee asked if the responses to the questions had been summarised and did they include responses from the trade. A full list of all responses had also been included within the report.
During the course of the committees debate members of the public attending the meeting were advised that under Procedural Rule 24 if there was a disturbance by a member of the public, if after due warning being given, they would be asked to be removed from the meeting room and would take no further part in listening to the debate. They had had their opportunity to speak in accordance with the Constitution and it was now for members of the committee to debate the issue.
Members asked if the IWTPA had provided a copy of their Constitution along with a list of members to the Council and were advised that they had not. There was some discussion as to the colour vehicles should be but it was generally agreed by the Committee that silver was an appropriate colour.
Upon receiving the report of the Licensing Section together with the written update in reply to the Isle of Wight Taxi Proprietors Association written representations, oral and written evidence from the Taxi Association it was
(i) In the light of the uncertainty surrounding whether the Isle of Wight Council had formally adopted Part II of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 the conditions in respect of the conditions for hackney carriage proprietors; private hire vehicles; private hire operators and hackney carriage/private hire drivers licences be approved in principle only, and to be brought back to the Committee for ratification at the earliest opportunity.
(ii) THAT the policy relating to the relevance of convictions be approved.
(iii) THAT a support paper be submitted to full Council to repeal the existing byelaws and to resolve not to create new byelaws in respect of the existing byelaws for hackney carriages, that being dependent on the approval of the Secretary of State for Transport to amalgamate the existing zones for hackney carriage licensing on the Isle of Wight be approved.