For Members to give consideration to and approve proposed amendments to the current Taxi & Private Hire Policy and Conditions and to receive an update on service delivery.
Mr Bingham introduced the item which includes proposed amendments to policies to improve the standard and safety of the taxi and private hire service within the district. Mr Bingham explained that in relation to the drivers’ process there are currently two approved providers of driving assessments for prospective drivers and a third provider is required to resource the demand. The assessment is similar to a standard driving test with the addition of examining how drivers react to given situations, with a pass or fail result.
Mr Bingham explained that revisions are now being sought to the current policies and conditions for both ‘Private Hire’ and ‘Hackney Carriage’ in order to provide a better service as a licensing authority and provide greater flexibility to the trade. This will include a proposal to grant three year licences only as opposed to one year licences with the option of an appropriate refund should a driver no longer require a licence before the three years have ended. The proposals do not amount to a comprehensive review of policies but target changes which will reinforce public safety, reduce the administrative burden on the Council as a licensing authority and make operating the service easier for the trade.
In response to members’ questions regarding the use of magnetic or stick-on licensed vehicles provided by the Council, Mr Bingham explained that once a vehicle is licensed the required signage must remain in place at all times. Providing magnetic signage (which will now cease going forward for all new applications) allows easy removal rather than stick-on signage. However, officers are observing that licence holders are removing magnetic signage when allegedly using a vehicle for private purposes.
In response to questions from members regarding ‘exempt’ vehicles, Mr Knowles-Ley explained that the Council currently accepts that such vehicles were used for work such as contract bookings or ‘high-end’ chauffeur services, and as a result of undertaking such work, were not required to display the standard door signage and identification plate on the rear of the vehicle. Previously there had been a high number of such vehicles but much work has been undertaken recently to scrutinise applications seeking an exemption. Applications seeking an exemption are now robustly challenged, with a declaration required and the subsequent booking records for a particular vehicle open subsequent examination. Exemption should be for genuine reasons only, and following the increased scrutiny of applications the numbers of exempt vehicles have decreased significantly.
Further discussion regarding the offence of ‘using a mobile phone while driving’ concluded that the wording should be altered to using a handheld ‘device’. Mr Foord responded that the wording in the policy can be expanded, but it should be noted that the specific offence is CU80.
In response to further questions from members of the committee, Mr Bingham confirmed that although drivers may have 7-9 points on their licences, these may be gained from a single offence. Mr Bingham provided an example whereby an applicant had been awarded 6 points for a driving offence, but was awarded additional points for failing to return in time their DVLA licence for endorsement. New applicants who have points on their driving licences, are invited for a meeting to discuss the nature of the points, and if necessary are referred to the sub-committee for a decision. Mr Knowles-Ley added that should licensed drivers incur points, they are duty-bound to inform the Council and that officers consider whether any action is required.
The ‘Knowledge Test’ pass rate was confirmed as low on the first attempt with improvement at re-sit following further preparation and research. Mr Knowles-Ley confirmed that the knowledge test is working well, with committed drivers persevering to pass and discouraging those who are less committed. Drivers are not required to re-sit the test once they have passed but as necessary do receive updates regarding changes in legislation and other relevant matters from the Council.
Mr Bingham confirmed drivers are not required to wear a seat belt when a passenger is on board, and drivers must assist a passenger using a wheelchair, unless they have a medical certificate exempting them from providing such assistance.
In response to members’ questions regarding the changes to the policies, and whether items should be brought back to the committee, Mr Knowles-Ley explained that the intention of the report was to provide feedback following members ratifying the last policy. The purpose of the report is to provide members with a flavour of revisions which are considered necessary which can be brought back to the committee at a later meeting.
With regards to questions relating to ‘Uber’, Mr Knowles-Ley confirmed that Uber Britannia Limited has been granted a five year operator’s licence by the committee, it has an operating base within Chichester. Any person can choose to apply to this authority to gain their vehicle and drivers licence. Once licensed, drivers who are based (reside) potentially within or outside the district can register to undertake work for Uber Britannia Limited via the online ‘Uber’ platform. This means that when a booking is sought via the platform from any location (both within and outside of the Chichester district) a driver licensed by this licensing authority can request the fare and if successful the booking is routed through the Chichester operating base sent to the driver for servicing. This process highlights the importance of the signage on vehicles, and vehicles and drivers being fully compliant as commonly drivers and vehicles licensed by this licensing authority are working outside of the Chichester district.
Members of the committee also asked if e-learning could be made available for drivers to which Mr Knowles-Ley confirmed that this would be considered.
Proposed changes to the council’s existing taxi and private hire policies/ conditions be approved as outlined above or further investigated.