Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans, bright future

Licensing Committee (ceased to operate 10/04/2017) Minutes

Date:
Tuesday, 20th October, 2015
Time:
10.00 am
Place:
Council Chamber, Town Hall, High Street, Stockton on Tees, TS18 1AJ
 
Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

Attendance Details

Present:
Cllr Paul Kirton(Chairman), Cllr Mrs Kathryn Nelson(Vice-Chairman), Cllr Derrick Brown, Cllr Chris Clough, Cllr Evaline Cunningham, Cllr Philip Dennis, Cllr Eileen Johnson, Cllr Mrs Jean O'Donnell, Cllr Stephen Parry, Cllr Maurice Perry, Cllr David Wilburn, Cllr Norma Wilburn, Cllr Bill Woodhead
Officers:
J Jones, L Wilford(PH) J Nertney, S Whaley(LD)
In Attendance:
Two members of the Taxi Trade, Local Business Woman, Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470 and his legal representative Mr D Wilson accompanied by Andrew Bullock an independent vehicle inspector.
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Julia Whitehill
Item Description Decision
Public
L
26/15
EVACUATION PROCEDURE
 
L
27/15
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
 
L
28/15
MINUTES FROM THE LICENSING COMMITTEE MEETINGS WHICH WERE HELD ON THE 15TH JULY AND 21ST JULY 2015.
RESOLVED that the minutes be approved and signed as a correct record.
L
29/15
MINUTES FROM THE LICENSING COMMITTEE MEETING WHICH WAS HELD ON THE 8TH SEPTEMBER 2015.
RESOLVED that the minutes be approved and signed as a correct record.
L
30/15
RELEVANCE OF CONVICTIONS, CAUTIONS, REPRIMANDS, WARNINGS AND COMPLAINTS AND CHARACTER
 
L
31/15
REVIEW OF STATEMENT OF LICENSING POLICY MADE UNDER THE LICENSING ACT 2003
RESOLVED that Members noted and agreed the final revised draft of the Statement of Licensing Policy to be referred to Cabinet on 3 December 2015 and then to Council for final approval on 20 January 2016.
L
32/15
REVIEW OF THE STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES FOR GAMBLING PREMISES IN STOCKTON
RESOLVED that Members agreed and noted the content of the report on a final revised draft of the Statement of Principles for Gambling Premises in Stockton prior to being referred to Cabinet on 3 December 2015 and then to Council for final approval on 20 January 2016.
L
33/15
PRIVATE HIRE & HACKNEY CARRIAGE LICENSING POLICY REVIEW
RESOLVED that:

1) The currently offered discount of around 60% with regard to licence fees for WAVS as opposed to saloon vehicles remain.

2) The current restriction be lifted on the type of Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAV) that may be licenced and rear load WAVs be introduced to the policy.

3) No change be made in relation to the relaxation of Euro emission standards for WAVs and that it remained that all existing vehicles should meet Euro 4 standards by the time of renewal in 2017 and that the emission levels for new and replacement vehicle's should meet Euro 5 standards.

4) The Council change current policy and allow applicants a 28 day period in which to produce the V5C logbook following the issue of a licence and that Members review the change within a year of its implementation in order to be satisfied that proprietors are providing the documentation within the 28 day period.
L
34/15
MANDATORY EXTENSION OF DURATION OF DRIVERS AND OPERATOR LICENCES
RESOLVED that Members noted the content of the report.
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35/15
REVIEW OF APPROACH TO LICENSING ENFORCEMENT AS A RESULT OF THE RULING IN THE CASE OF R (SINGH) V CARDIFF CITY COUNCIL [2012]
RESOLVED that:

1. Members agreed to delegate to Officers, in consultation with the Chair or Vice Chair of the Licensing Committee and the Director of Law and Democracy, the power to revoke a private hire or hackney carriage driver's licence with immediate effect under Section 61 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, where it was considered necessary in the interests of public safety.

2. Members agree to approve a ‘fast track' procedure to re-licence those drivers who had had their licence revoked but who had subsequently been found to be a fit and proper person.

3. Members agree to implement the recommendations with immediate effect.
Confidential
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36/15
ACCIDENT DAMAGED VEHICLES - REF 000470
  • Accident Damaged Vehicles - Ref 000470
  • |
    Appendix 1
  • |
    Appendix 2
  • |
    Appendix 3
  • |
    Appendix 4
  • |
    Example 1
  • |
    Example 2
  • |
    Example 3
  • |
    Example 4
RESOLVED that due to the vehicles failure to comply with Council policy there was sufficient reasonable cause to revoke the vehicles licences.
10.00 am - 1.10pm

Preamble

ItemPreamble
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26/15
The evacuation procedure was noted.
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27/15
There were no declarations of interest.
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28/15
Consideration was given to the Licensing Minutes from the meetings which were held on the 15th and 21st of July 2015 for approval and signature.
L
29/15
Consideration was given to the Licensing Minutes from the meeting which was held on the 8th September 2015 for approval and signature.
L
30/15
The Relevance of Convictions, Cautions, Reprimands, Warnings And Complaints And Character was noted.
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31/15
Members were asked to consider and note the content of the Review of Statement of Licensing Policy made under the Licensing Act 2003 and agree on a final revised draft of the Statement of Licensing Policy to be referred to Cabinet and Council for approval.

The purpose of the report was to update Members following the close of the consultation carried out with regard to the revised draft Statement of Licensing Policy made under the Licensing Act 2003. The consultation period closed on Friday 16 October 2015.

The Authority was required by the Licensing Act 2003 to publish a Statement of Licensing Policy that set out its guiding principles for making licensing decisions under the Act. The Statement of Licensing Policy needed to be renewed every five years. The current Policy Statement took effect in January 2011 and was due for renewal in January 2016.

The Licensing Act 2003 was concerned with regulating the carrying on of licensable activities on licensed premises, at qualifying clubs and at temporary events within the terms of the Act. The licensable activities were:-

• The sale and supply of alcohol.
• The provision of regulated entertainment.
• The provision of late night refreshment.

The Authority carried out its function under the Act with a view to promoting the four licensing objectives:-

• The prevention of crime and disorder.
• The prevention of public nuisance.
• The protection of children from harm.
• Ensuring public safety.

Each objective was of equal importance. It was relevant to note that there were no other licensing objectives, therefore the four stated objectives were paramount considerations at all times.

In carrying out its duties under the Act the Authority would look to balance the needs of residents, customers and business owners and in doing this would be guided by the Act's four licensing objections. The Statement of Licensing Policy provided a local framework for the process and a copy of the revised draft was attached at Appendix 1.

Whilst each licensing application was considered on its own merits, the Policy set out a general approach to making licensing decisions under the Act. The discretion of the Licensing Authority in relation to applications could only be used if relevant representations were received.

The main changes to the Policy Statement were detailed within the main report.

The consultation period closed on Friday 16 October 2015. At the time of writing the report (1 October 2015) there had been no responses received. Since the completion of the report 3 additional comments had been received from the following organisations

- Tees Valley Village Halls network
- Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Network UK
- Environmental Health

Members were presented with the responses for consideration which were attached alongside the main report.

Members were given the opportunity to comment/ask questions on the Review of Statement of Licensing Policy made under the Licensing Act 2003 and these could be summarised as follows:

- Discussion took place around the policy providing a framework to limit or refuse additional public houses or off licences in areas within the borough which had a high concentration of them already and which could be considered hot spots from evidence provided from Public Health.

- A brief discussion took place around the responses received and how best to incorporate some of the relevant points raised into the final policy document.

Members noted and agreed the final revised draft of the Statement of Licensing Policy as detailed within the Officers report.

An updated draft of the revised Statement of Licensing Policy was due to go before Cabinet on 3 December 2015 and then to Council for final approval on 20 January 2016.
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32/15
Members were asked to consider and note the content of the Review of the Statement of Principles For Gambling Premises in Stockton.

The purpose of the report was to update Members following the close of the consultation carried out with regard to the revised draft Statement of Principles for Gambling Premises. The consultation period closed 16 October 2015.

The Gambling Act required that before each successive period of 3 years, the Licensing Authority must prepare and publish a statement of principles that it proposed to apply in exercising its functions under the Act.

The Act required that the Authority carried out its various licensing functions with a view to promoting the following three licensing objectives:

•Preventing gambling from being a source of crime and disorder; being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime;

•Ensuring that gambling was carried out in a fair and open way;

•Protecting children and vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.

During the policy review a number of different information sources and issues were considered to identify relevant policy changes or issues of concern.

Amendments had been made to the Policy to ensure that it accorded with the Gambling Commission Guidance and the Gambling Commission Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice. The main changes in the documents related to the social responsibilities and obligations of operators. A copy of the revised policy was attached at Appendix 1 of the main report.

The main changes to the policy areas were contained within the main report.

The consultation period closed on Friday 16 October 2015. At the time the report was written (7 October 2015) there had been one substantive response received. The response was submitted on behalf of Luxury Leisure and was attached at Appendix 2 of the report which also included officers' comments and suggested amendments.

Since completion of the Officers report a further 2 representations had been received from Gosschalks Solicitors who were acting on behalf of the Association of British Bookmakers (ABB) and from Coral Racing Ltd. Officers informed the Committee that in the main the representation received from Coral Racing was in support of the Officers report. Both additional representations were presented to Members for consideration and included officer comments. The representations were also available to view alongside the main report.

A brief discussion took place around the responses received and how best to incorporate some of the relevant points raised into the final policy document.

An updated draft of the revised Statement of Principles for Gambling Premises was due to go before Cabinet on 3 December 2015 and then to Council for final approval on 20 January 2016.
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33/15
Members were asked to consider a report which took a further look at two issues as requested by Members during a Licensing Committee meeting on 15 July 2015, where the Committee considered the responses received following a consultation exercise undertaken as part of the Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Policy Review.

The first issue was that of wheelchair accessible vehicles and the second was that concerning the production of the vehicle registration document (V5C logbook) during the vehicle application process.

The Council's aim for a number of years had been to increase the amount of wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) on the licensed fleet. The current policy requirement was that all new applications for hackney carriage vehicle (HCV) licences should be required to be wheelchair accessible, until the total number of WAVs licensed reached 25% of the hackney carriage fleet, equating to 70 vehicles. Current policy allowed existing saloon HCVs to be replaced by another saloon vehicle.

The current number of WAVs within the hackney carriage fleet stood at 22 and had actually fallen from levels in 2012, when the figure was 26. The Government remained committed to an accessible public transport system in which disabled people had the same opportunities to travel as other members of society but had issued no further guidance on the issue of improving taxi provision for people with disabilities.

At their meeting on 15 July 2015, Members agreed to retain the WAV target level for the hackney carriage fleet, as well as the dispensation which allowed proprietors to replace existing saloon HCVs with another saloon vehicle. However they asked for a report to be brought back before them, looking further at the issues involved.

The cost of purchasing and running WAVs had been raised by the trade as the main reason why the number had not increased over the years. Consideration needed to be given as to how this concern could be best dealt with.

The Council currently offered a discount of around 60% with regard to the licence fees for WAVs as opposed to saloon vehicles (135 compared to 310 for a new grant and 100 compared to 275 for a renewal) but this had not increased the take up level for WAVs. It was difficult to see how any further licence fee discount would in itself incentivise the licensing of WAVs given the costs involved in the purchasing and running of these types of vehicles.

Another possible consideration could be given to relaxing the Euro emission standards for WAVs. Under the revised Policy, Members had agreed that all existing vehicles should meet Euro 4 standards by the time of their renewal in 2017 and that the emission levels for new and replacement vehicles should meet Euro 5 standards. Members could consider relaxing this so that current Euro 3 WAVs (of which there are 9, the oldest of which is currently 14 years old) were allowed to remain licenced for an additional period of time beyond 2017 and emission standards for new and replacement WAVs were retained at Euro 4 for a specified period. This could act as an incentive to the trade in purchasing and maintaining a WAV, although it would have to be balanced against the environmental factors already considered by Members at their meeting on 15 July 2015.

Members could also consider lifting the current restriction on the type of WAV that may be licensed. The current policy stated that WAVs must be ‘side loading' and that ‘rear loading' vehicles were not permitted. This was introduced a number of years ago as a response to potential safety concerns associated with the use of ‘rear loaders'.

There was a significant difference in the purchase price and maintenance costs between side loading and rear loading vehicles with side loaders often costing between 5,000 and 10,000 more to purchase. The cheaper price of rear loading WAVs could increase the number of WAVs within the fleet by encouraging more proprietors to purchase them than would be the case if only side loading WAVs were licensable.

The reduced cost to the trade in purchasing these rear loading vehicles and the increased accessibility for disabled passengers that this could bring, would need to be balanced against health and safety considerations which were detailed within the main report.

It was however generally considered easier to secure passengers in rear loading as opposed to side loading WAVs. When the wheelchair entered from the side it would then either be secured to the floor, still facing sideways, or the wheelchair would be turned around inside the vehicle so as to face forward. With many modern wheelchairs, particularly powered ones which could be very large and bulky, it may not be possible to rotate the chair once it was inside the vehicle and, as such, the passenger may have to complete their journey facing sideways. Rear loaders had the advantage of always allowing the wheelchair user to face forward during the journey.

Rear loading WAVs could also carry a wider variety of wheelchairs. People who used heavy or powered wheelchairs or people who needed a significant amount of headroom could find side loading WAVs difficult to enter. Rear loading WAVs were understood to be more likely to be able to accommodate them.

Rear loading HCVs could take up scarcer rank space as much as up to 3 metres was needed at the back to allow enough space for passengers in wheelchairs to get in and out. However this was not considered to be a major issue as it was widely accepted and confirmed by drivers and wheelchair users alike that a person in a wheelchair was unlikely to go to a rank to hire a vehicle; rather they would be more likely to pre-book a vehicle in advance of the journey.

Clearly if rear loading WAVs were inherently unsafe they would not be permitted on the road at all. Medical services and other Council services made considerable use of these vehicles. It could be argued that such services collected passengers in a more controlled environment than hackney carriages responding to an immediate hiring, although again the argument given above with regard to pre-booking was still relevant, where pick-up arrangements could be made at the time of an advance booking.

There were arguments for and against rear loading WAVs. Any potential harm would need to be balanced against the perceived benefits to the wider community in terms of reduced costs and improved accessibility.

Any amendment to the Council's Policy did not, in any way, allow or permit a licensed driver to operate in an unsafe manner. Licensed drivers and operators had a general duty of care towards their passengers and other road users and, as such, must take appropriate steps to ensure that any bookings they accept, and journeys they undertake, were done in a safe manner.

Since the report had been completed additional comments had been received from a member of the taxi trade. The main issue highlighted was in relation to rear loading WAVS, and the benefits of them, the detail of which was attached alongside the main report.

Members of the taxi trade and a local business woman were in attendance at the meeting and were given the opportunity to make representation. Their comments could be summarised as follows:

- A local business woman was looking to introduce a new business with her husband to the area which would transport disabled customers to and from appointments such as hospital/hair, or shopping trips etc. The idea was that the service would provide a companion based service not a taxi service allowing less abled persons access to the world again. In order for the business to commence however she was relying on the change in policy to allow rear loading WAV's.

- The taxi trade welcomed the continuation of discounted fees, and also welcomed the relaxation of the fuel emissions for WAVs which would encourage people to increase the number of WAVs in the fleet.

- The trade highlighted to the Committee that rear loading WAVs were used widely across other authorities within the UK where it was believed that accidents in these vehicles whilst loading was less than 1%.

- If rear loading was introduced then Private Hire would be able to introduce WAVs, which would increase the numbers available to the public.

- Discussion took place around emissions, the trade expressed that WAVs should be able to continue with Euro 3 emissions as long as the vehicle was mechanically good. It was not always good practice to look at emissions in isolation without considering the condition of the vehicle. Buses and Heavy Goods Vehicles were not restricted where emissions were concerned.

Members were given the opportunity to ask questions/make comments. These could be summarised as followed:

- Members recalled that at the Licensing meeting which was held on the 15th July 2015 they requested that officers provide information relating to the numbers of disabled people which were using WAVS within the Borough. If the figure was low then maybe it was not viable to increase the WAV fleet.

- Members discussed whether the residents survey was able to provide any statistical information as it asked if anyone in a household was a wheelchair user.

- Questions were raised as to whether any statistics were available to back up the fact that rear loading WAVs were more dangerous than side loaders.

Officers were given the opportunity to respond to some of the issues/questions raised by Members. Their comments could be summarised as follows:

- It was very difficult to find out the current usage of WAVs within the Borough. The current estimate had been based on government statistics which stated that 2 to 3% of the population were wheelchair bound; this seemed to be the only data available when trying to calculate the number of WAVs required. Within that number it was really difficult to find out how many people were able get in and out of cars. Officers informed the Committee that the disability forum supported the current information.

- During 2003/2004 the government had stated that they would provide a formula to enable authorities to work out how many WAV's each authority required, however this information had still not been produced.

- In relation to the residents survey it only highlighted residents considered to have a disability not necessarily use a wheelchair.

- Officers informed the Committee that some neighbouring authorities did licence rear loading WAVs.

- Regarding information relating to accidents in rear loading WAVs Officers informed Members that there had been an incident where a rear loading WAV had been involved in an accident whilst loading and the passenger was killed. There was however no accident statistics available from other authorities which did licence rear loading WAVs.

Production of the Vehicle Registration Document During the Vehicle Application Process

Current policy stated that the vehicle registration document (V5C logbook) must be produced at the time that the vehicle application was made.

During the recent consultation exercise, the requirement was opposed by the vast majority of respondents, who requested that the Council revert back to the previous position of issuing the licence and allowing the applicant a further 28 days to produce the logbook. The trade also spoke out against the requirement at the Licensing Committee meeting on 15 July 2015 and Members asked officers to look again at the matter and report back to them.

The requirement for the logbook to be submitted with the vehicle application was introduced for a number of reasons which were detailed within the main report.

There was now no need to see the logbook in order to check for accident damage. It had become apparent that category D accident damage did not appear on the logbook and Members had approved the requirement for the production of a HPI check or similar during the application process.

Officers would also generally have a rough idea of the emission standard taking into account the vehicle's date of registration and could check this at a later date when the logbook was produced.

In addition, members of the trade had indicated that it was not always possible to get the documentation back from the DVLA in a timely manner which may result in them not having a licensed vehicle for a significant period of time.

After considering the above, officers had no objections if Members decided to change from current policy and allow applicants a 28 day period in which to produce the logbook following the issue of the licence. Members may also wish to review any such change within a year of its implementation in order to be satisfied that proprietors were providing the documentation within the 28 day period and not creating additional unnecessary follow-up work for officers.

A final revised draft of the Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Licensing Policy was due to go before Cabinet on 12 November 2015 and to Council for approval on 25 November 2015.

Members of the Taxi Trade were in attendance at the meeting and given the opportunity to make representation. Their comments could be summarised as follows:

- There were issues with delays when requesting V5C logbook from DVLA, sometimes as long as 3 to 4 weeks.

- Previously there was a local office in Stockton which could deal with the requests more quickly, however now everything had to be sent to Swansea which took longer.

Members were given the opportunity to ask questions/make comments. These could be summarised as followed:

- Clarity was sought as to which drivers must have Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles. Officers explained that only new drivers to the trade would have to have WAVs.
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34/15
Members were asked to consider and note the content of the ‘Mandatory Extension of Duration of Drivers and Operator Licences'.

The Deregulation Act 2015 (the Act) came in to force on the 1st October 2015. It introduced a number of measures designed to reduce or remove unnecessary burdens on businesses, civil society, individuals, public sector bodies and the tax payer.

In particular the Act extended the duration of Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Drivers licences to 3 years and Private Hire Operators licences to 5 years.

The Authority already offered the options of 1 or 3 year driver's licence to applicants. In 2014/15 140 or 15% of all drivers applied for a 3 year drivers licence.

The Authority currently offered a 1 year Private Hire Operators licence. These expired each year on the 30th November. A banding structure existed with licence fees rising according to the number of vehicles operated.

An analysis of work associated with licences and potential savings where applications were only made on a 5 yearly frequency had been carried out. It had been determined that the processing associated with receiving an annual application would be avoided. All other work including vehicle checks (ensuring vehicles were linked and working through an operator), compliance work, complaint investigation and advisory work would still be required for both 1 and 5 years licences.

It had therefore been proposed that the fee for a 5 year licence be calculated by multiplying the cost of a 1 year licence by 5 and then deducting the standard administration fee of 45 for years 2 to 5 (i.e. deduct 180 administration costs for each band).

The current 1 year licence fee and proposed 5 year licence fee were attached at Appendix 1 of the main report.

A letter had been issued to all 28 currently licences operators asking for comments. A copy of the letter was attached at Appendix 2 of the main report.

Under section 70 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 variations to operator's licence fees must be published in at least one local newspaper. An advert had appeared in the Herald and Post on the 8th October 2015.

A full review of all driver, vehicle and operator fees was planned for the next financial year.
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35/15
The Committee were asked to consider a report which informed Members of a ruling by the High Court Queen's Bench Division in the case of R (Singh) v Cardiff City Council [2012] and the affect the judgement had on the circumstances when the Council used the power of suspension of a private hire or hackney carriage driver's licence.

Under Section 61(1) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 a district council may suspend, revoke, or refuse to renew a Private Hire or Hackney Carriage driver's licence on any of the following grounds:

a) Since the grant of the licence he had been convicted of an offence involving dishonesty, indecency or violence or been convicted of an offence under or had failed to comply with the provisions of the Town Police Clauses Act of 1847 or of the 1976 Act; or

b) Any other reasonable cause.

Under this specific section the driver had 21 days to appeal the decision to the Magistrates Court and during the appeal period the licence holder could continue to drive licensed vehicles.

However, Section 61(2B) of the 1976 Act enabled a decision to suspend or revoke a driver's licence to take immediate effect should the Council consider it necessary in the interests of public safety. This meant that the driver could not continue to drive licensed vehicles during the appeal period and should the driver exercise his right of appeal, until that matter had been heard by the Court.

In the case of R (Singh) v Cardiff City Council [2012], Mr Justice Singh ruled that the suspension of a driver's licence could be used as a sanction following an incident of non-compliance, as an alternative to revocation or other sanction in appropriate cases.

However he also ruled that suspension of a driver's licence was a final decision on the question of a person's fitness and propriety and therefore suspension could not be used as an interim measure pending further investigation into a driver's conduct and ultimate fitness and propriety.

A copy of an article by Roy Light, Barrister, which appeared in the Local Government Lawyer, was attached at Appendix 1 of the main report for information. The article discussed the decision and its implications in more detail.

It represented a significant change from the way in which the power of suspension had previously been used by officers within the Council. In the past officers may have suspended a driver's licence following serious complaints or allegations (e.g. violence, drugs offences, sexual assaults, dishonesty) which if substantiated would cast doubts over their fitness to hold such a licence. This action was taken to ensure the protection of public safety was not compromised whilst investigations took place. Following completion of the investigation the matter would then be referred to the Licensing Committee for a decision to be taken in light of the additional evidence to either revoke the licence or lift the suspension.

It was proposed that, in accordance with the judgement, where the Licensing Section now received an allegation or complaint which was of a particularly serious nature and gave rise to a genuine and urgent concern for the protection of public safety, officers may, in conjunction with the Chair or Vice Chair of the Licensing Committee and the Director of Law and Democracy, give consideration to the immediate revocation of a driver's licence.

It should be noted that receipt of an allegation or the fact that charges had been brought were not confirmation of an individual's misconduct in respect of that matter, and as such any action taken would be to ensure the protection of public safety and did not seek to prejudge judicial or other processes which would be followed, nor should the revocation of a licence in such a manner be taken as any kind of evidence or statement on the conduct of the individual concerned.

A formal record of the decision making process with reasons would be kept and referred to in the event of an appeal to the Magistrates Court against the revocation of a licence. Written notice of the decision to revoke a licence and of the driver's 21 days right of appeal to the Magistrates Court would be given in accordance with legal requirements. It was also proposed that a report would be presented to the Licensing Committee detailing the number of occasions when the power had been exercised, the reason for the exercise of the power, whether an appeal was submitted and, if applicable, the outcome of the appeal.

In the event of revocation of a licence in such circumstances, should the allegation subsequently be found to be baseless or any charges dismissed then the Council would consider what action to take. A ‘fast track' or expedited procedure would be implemented to re-licence those drivers who had had their licence revoked but who had subsequently been found to be a fit and proper person. In this scenario the driver would need to submit a new application form without payment of an application fee to effectively reinstate his previous licence, but all pre-check enquiries (DBS disclosure, medical etc.) would stand and would be automatically set to the dates at which they were previously due to expire, as would the licence itself.

Officers also explained to Members that if a driver was acquitted but there was still doubt as to whether the driver was a fit and proper person, the matter would still come before the Licensing Committee for consideration.
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36/15
Consideration was given to a report for Members to determine what action to take in relation to a Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470 who had licensed 33 separate vehicles that were categorised as category C or D accident damaged vehicles which did not comply with current Licensing Policy.

Members were asked to consider the following:

- A request for reconsideration of the Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Policy in relation to the prohibition of category C and D accident damaged vehicles.

- What action to take in respect of a number of private hire and hackney carriage vehicles operated by Private Hire Operator - Ref 00470 or owned by which did not comply with current policy in that they had been categorised as C or D accident damaged.

- To consider the request to depart from policy and continue to licence accident damaged vehicles operated by Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470.

Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470 was in attendance at the meeting with his representative, Mr Wilson from A to Z Licensing. Also in attendance was Andrew Bullock an independent vehicle inspector.

Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470 had been provided with a copy of the Committee report and supporting papers, which had been delivered to him prior to the meeting.

The Committee considered the report, appendices and oral evidence given by Private Hire Operator- Ref 000470 and his representatives during the meeting.

With regard to accident damaged vehicles, the Policy currently stated:-

Vehicles deemed to be an insurance "write-off" (i.e. in category A, B, C, D) and/or have their V5 document endorsed as being ‘accident damaged' would have their licence revoked.

The Committee noted the written and oral submission made by Mr Wilson in relation to the request for the Council to alter their policy and permit insurance write offs/accident damaged vehicles which were categorised as C or D to be licensed as hackney carriage or private hire vehicles. The Committee had regard to the evidence called from Andrew Bullock who was an independent vehicles assessor.

It was noted that Mr Bullock had experience of carrying out reports for other authorities such as Middlesbrough who currently allowed category C & D vehicles to be licensed. Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470 informed the Committee that he did not have any such engineers reports in relation to the vehicles he operated which appeared on the schedule but he did intend for Mr Bullock to inspect them and provide a report as soon as possible.

The Committee noted that Mr Wilsons written submission stated that Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470 was unaware that a number of its vehicles were category C or D vehicles and therefore did not comply with Council Policy. The Committee was not persuaded by that submission and noted that Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470's wife operated an account with a salvage operator who supplied insurance write offs which were categorised as C or D. The Committee were of the view that Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470 had been complicit in a deliberate attempt to circumvent the Councils taxi licensing policy. Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470 was fully aware that the Council Policy dictated that insurance write offs categorised as category C or D would not normally be licensed by the Council and would have their licences revoked. The original policy which resolved that insurance write offs categorised as C or D would not be licensed had been introduced in 2009 following extensive consultation with the taxi trade including Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470. The policy had also been subject to review and further consultation in 2012 and 2015. The Committee were of the view that it was only when Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470 attempted to circumvent the policy had been discovered that he then sought to lobby the Council for a change in that policy requirement. The Council had not been lobbied by any other members of the taxi trade requesting that vehicles classified as category C or D insurance write offs be licensed.

The Committee noted that at their meeting on 15 July 2015 it had been noted that the category C or D was not always entered onto the V5 document by the DVLA and that this had led to the situation which had arisen here where Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470 had managed to licence insurance write offs in contravention of the Council policy. It was noted that at the meeting on 15 July 2015 the Committee agreed to amend the policy and required the production of a HPI report as that would definitively identify whether the vehicle had been categorised as an insurance write off and, if so, in which category i.e. C or D.

The evidence before the Committee indicated that Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470 had attempted to take advantage of a loophole and that he had sourced insurance write off vehicles which he had then arranged to be repaired and had licensed them with the Council. Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470 had not provided any evidence to show that his actions in licensing insurance write offs were as a result of an innocent mistake in fact the contrary appeared to be the case. In the view of the Committee the only reason Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470 had sought to purchase and licence insurance write offs was to take advantage of the fact that insurance write offs categorised as C or D were much cheaper to purchase than a vehicle which had not been classified as an insurance write off categorised as C or D. This also appeared to be an attempt to secure a commercial advantage over other members of the taxi trade who complied with Council policy when licensing vehicles.

The Committee were of the view that consideration of the matter had only recently been concluded following full consultation with the trade and consideration of the matter before the licensing Committee on 15 July 2015. The Committee were mindful that the policy in relation to insurance write offs categorised as C or D had been in place since 2009 and following further policy reviews there had been no trade requests for this to be changed. The Committee were of the view that to agree to Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470's request would be a retrograde step. The Committee were of the view that to allow insurance write offs categorised as C or D to be licensed as hackney carriage and private hire vehicles would permit a level of risk and that level of risk was not deemed to be acceptable when considering public safety. In relation to the vehicles currently operated by Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470, any engineer inspecting the vehicle would have little or no idea of the damage that had occurred to the vehicle or of the repairs which had been carried out. The same would also apply if the policy was changed as vehicles were likely to have been repaired before purchase by owners/operators and therefore any engineer's inspection was after the event and that carried a level of risk.

After consideration of the report and of the comments made by Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470 at the meeting the Committee determined that:-

- They were not persuaded to change the policy requirement that category C or D insurance write offs would not be licensed;

- Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470 had not provided sufficient exceptional reasons to persuade the Committee to depart from policy and continue to licence category C or D insurance write offs owned or operated by Private Hire Operator - Ref 000470 as detailed in the schedule of vehicles before the Committee; and

- As the vehicles failed to comply with Council policy there was sufficient reasonable cause to revoke the vehicles licences.

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