The committee is requested to approve the implementation of a knowledge test for new applicants applying for a Private Hire Driver Licence.
At the last General Licensing Committee meeting approval was granted to create a working group to review the council’s current Taxi and Private Hire Licensing Policy and conditions. As a result officers propose to introduce a PH knowledge test which is likely to cost drivers around £41 (the cost of a Hackney Carriage Knowledge Test). Ms Di Lauro confirmed that the requirement is for new drivers and drivers with lapsed licences only. The proposed knowledge test will assess understanding in the following areas:
· Taxi/PH law
· The council’s own policy and requirements
· The Highway Code and road signs
· Basic literacy and numeracy
· Local knowledge of the district
Mr Barson explained that officers of the council’s Licensing Team have been in touch with a company called ‘Diamond’ who supply computerised knowledge tests to other local authorities such as Arun, Southampton and Winchester. A consultation has also been carried out with existing PH drivers. Members received a copy of the responses (which are available as a supplement to the agenda for this meeting). Drivers raised concerns about cost, time required to complete the test and whether either will deter suitable applicants.
Members discussed the practical difficulties faced by drivers who are unable to demonstrate an understanding of the English language. Mr Barson assured members that officers will carefully consider the level of literacy testing required. He acknowledged that some local authorities require an oral assessment and agreed that this will be considered in the future.
Mr Connor asked for clarification regarding the number of questions on the test. Mr Barson explained that the council is able to determine its own number and nature of questions. Council’s either specify a pass mark for each area tested or an overall pass mark. Officers have concerns that using an overall pass mark could lead to drivers passing the test with a low level of understanding in some areas.
Mrs Westacott asked how officers will deter cheating if tests are carried out online. Mr Barson assured members that online testing will be invigilated within the council building and discussions were on-going with the relevant colleagues with the organisation.
Mrs Westacott requested clarification regarding the support on offer for dyslexic applicants. Mr Foord explained that any applicant who discloses dyslexia during the application process will be appropriately supported in line with the Equality Act 2010. Mr Barson agreed to contact other local authorities to discuss designing a varied set of questions to suit all applicants. Ms Di Lauro explained that the council would not be in breach of the Equality Act 2010 if an applicant fails to disclose their dyslexia or other disability.
Mr Potter asked whether officers had considered restricted licences to suit drivers who want to do specific types of work only. Mr Barson explained that this will be considered in the overall policy review but in principle would be possible with the right administrative system.
The Chairman thanked those who had participated in the review.
That a knowledge test for new applicants applying for a Private Hire Driver Licence be implemented.