Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans, bright future

Licensing Committee Minutes

Date:
Tuesday, 13th December, 2016
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 MBE
Officers:
Jonathan Nertney(DHR&LC), Polly Edwards, Simon Mills, Margaret Waggott, Sarah Whaley (DCE)
In Attendance:
Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852
Item Description Decision
Public
L
30/16
EVACUATION PROCEDURE
 
L
31/16
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
 
L
32/16
LICENSING COMMITTEE MINUTES FRO THE MEETING WHICH WAS HELD ON THE 15TH NOVEMBER 2016
RESOLVED that the minutes were approved and signed as a correct record by the Chairman.
L
33/16
PRIVATE HIRE AND HACKNEY CARRIAGE LICENSING POLICY REVIEW

RESOLVED that:

1) the report be approved

2) wording to paragraph 31 of the main report be changed to:

All existing drivers and private hire operators (or a representative of the licensed company for operators) shall have successfully completed the Barnardos E-Learning training, as a minimum, arranged by this Council, no later than end of July 2017. New applicants shall have successfully completed it before the issue of their first licence.

3) a full 28 day consultation take place with the taxi trade and interested stakeholders on the policy amendments document; results of the consultation would then be brought back to the Licensing Committee for their consideration prior to reporting to Cabinet and Council for approval.
L
34/16
EXCLUSION OF THE PUBLIC
RESOLVED that under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involved the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 1 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act.
Confidential
L
35/16
PRIVATE HIRE DRIVER - REF 131852
  • Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852
RESOLVED that Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852's Private Hire Drivers Licence be revoked for the reasons as detailed above.
10:00 am

Preamble

ItemPreamble
L
30/16
The Evacuation Procedure was noted.
L
31/16
There were no declarations of interest.
L
32/16
Consideration was given to the minutes from the Licensing Committee Meeting which was held on the 15th November 2016.
L
33/16
The Assistant Director for Administration, Democratic and Electoral Services presented Members with an update report on the Licensing Service since the introduction of the Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Policy (Policy) on the 1 January 2016. Members were asked to comment on the review of the Policy before being considered by Cabinet and full Council.

At a Cabinet meeting held on 12 November 2015, an updated Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Licensing Policy was approved and introduced on 1 January 2016.

Since the introduction, the service had seen positive outcomes that supported the trade's aim of being recognised as a professional part of the public transport system. There had been 41, accident damaged vehicles removed from the fleet and 500 drivers had been trained in safeguarding. In addition following intelligence and complaints, 19 drivers/applicants had been revoked or refused licenses, 5 of those being drug test failures.

Full detail of the recommended changes to the policy were available within the main report, however these could be summarised as follows:

1. Recommending a licensed vehicle age restriction policy over the current emission standard requirements.

2. Recommending all new and existing licensed drivers complete the Barnardos online eLearning safeguarding course as a minimum safeguarding requirement.

3. Recommending the Tees Valley Taxi Assessment was provided by Hartlepool Borough Council to replace the current assessment provider.

4. Recommending Disclosure and Barring Service checks were completed annually online.

5. Recommending extending the deadline for level 2 driver training to December 2017 for existing drivers and 12 months from the grant of a licence for new drivers.

6. Recommending new driver applications were accepted and processed pending receipt of a completed Group 2 Medical Assessment Form.

7. Recommending CCTV in vehicles was to be encouraged, but not made a mandatory requirement.

8. Recommending that operators or proprietors of several vehicles were allowed to submit one advert application for each vehicle type .e.g. cars and minibuses as opposed to one advert form for each vehicle.

Members were given the opportunity to ask questions/make comments. As detailed below:

- In relation to the changes regarding Disclosure and Barring Service Checks (DBS), questions were raised as to whether there would be an increase in workload for officers. It was explained that the recommendation was to switch from 3 year paper based DBS checks to the annual online DBS update service. It was explained that the driver would have more input as appose to officers. The applicant would register with the DBS where a reference number would be allocated. Once officers had the reference they would be able to check a drivers DBS on the online system which was considered to be much more resourceful for officers then the paper based system.

- Issues were raised in relation to safeguarding in light of the Rotheram cases. Members were informed that by the end of December 2016, 500 drivers would have completed a 2 day training course which had been provided by Stockton Councils Learning & Skills Service and was recognised as a Level 1 National Open College Network accredited qualification in ‘The awareness of protection and safeguarding in health and social care (adults and young people) early years and childcare as well as Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)'. Feedback from members of the trade who had completed the course had been excellent. Some other authorities were still awaiting the launch of the Barnardos e-learning safeguarding training system which was not as robust as the one available at Stockton, however Members were asked to approve the Barnardos training course as a minimum requirement for drivers with encouragement given to complete both courses while available.

- Discussion took place around the introduction of CCTV in cars. Officers explained that it was felt customers still expected a certain level of privacy. Drivers would not be prevented from installing CCTV however neither was it to be enforced.

- Members raised concerns in relation to the higher costs of Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles(WAV's) when being replaced. It was highlighted that only new Hackney Carriage Vehicles had to be WAV's. It was explained that drivers who opted for WAV's could also carry other passengers including for example school runs. Members were reminded of a previous policy change which enabled WAV's to be side or rear opening, giving drivers more choice of vehicle.

- In relation to the recommended introduction of an age related policy for licensed vehicles, Members sought clarity as to the elimination of 'Variations if Well Maintained' for vehicles which had been well maintained. Officers felt that it was difficult and confusing to define well maintained as this would be based on opinion. There was however an exemption for vehicles such as vintage /wedding cars.

- Members requested that the wording to paragraph 31 of the report be changed for clarity. Officers agreed to change this to:

All existing drivers and private hire operators (or a representative of the licensed company for operators) shall have successfully completed the Barnardos E-Learning training, as a minimum, arranged by this Council, no later than end of July 2017. New applicants shall have successfully completed it before the issue of their first licence.
L
35/16
Members were asked to consider a report and determine what action to take in relation to the continued fitness of Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852 who had had his licence granted with a warning on 18 December 2012. The reason for the warning at the grant of his licence was due to theft convictions dating back to 1994 and 2009. Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852's private hire driver's licence was then suspended on 28 August 2016 for failing to complete / return his Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) Certificate. He produced his DBS in October 2016 and this revealed a further conviction, for theft, dated 11 December 2012.

Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852 was in attendance at the meeting and had been provided with a copy of the committee report prior to the meeting and was given the opportunity to make representation.

The report detailed the following:

- Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852's background and details of the convictions against him.

- A copy of a letter dated 18th December 2012 detailing the grant of a Private Hire Drivers Licence with a warning.

- A copy of the summary of the transcript between Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852 and a Licensing Officer.

- A copy of an e mail from Royal Cars to a Licensing Officer detailing an incident which had been resolved involving a passenger who had lost their phone in Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852's car.

The role of the Committee was to determine whether Combined Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852 was a fit and proper person to hold a Private Hire Drivers Licence in accordance with sections 61(1)(a) of The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.

Members were aware that Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852's licence was suspended for non-completion of the DBS and in light of the disclosure content, remained suspended. Members agreed to lift the suspension as Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852 had completed the DBS and returned a copy to the Licensing Office. The Committee then went onto consider whether Private Hire Driver - Ref 13185 remained a fit and proper person and/or whether there was sufficient reasonable cause to take action under Section 61 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.

The Committee considered the report, appendices and oral evidence given by the Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852 and concluded that:

•Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852 had received a conviction for theft in 2012 which the Council had not been made aware of until Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852 had recently completed his DBS check;

. Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852's failure to notify the Council of his conviction for theft in 2012 was a clear attempt by Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852 to deceive the Council. The Committee were satisfied on the balance of probability that Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852 knew that the conviction would call in to question Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852 fitness to hold a licence and that Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852 deliberately chose not to inform the Council of that conviction.

•The Committee noted that the deception was aggravated by the renewal process which Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852 followed and which he again failed to notify the Council of the conviction.

The Committee carefully considered the facts and evidence and determined on the balance of probability that:

•Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852 did intend to deceive the Council and was wilfully dishonest in that regard;

•Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852's conviction for theft, coupled with Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852's previous convictions for dishonesty offences called into question Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852's fitness to hold a licence;

In light of the Members findings, the Committee deemed there to be sufficient reasonable cause to revoke Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852's licence and Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852's licence was revoked pursuant to sections 61(1)(b) of The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions ) Act 1976.

Given the particular circumstances of the theft conviction in 2012, Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852's previous history and his failure to notify the licensing department at the time or on any of Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852's renewals, the Committee found that public safety was an issue and Private Hire Driver - Ref 131852's licence was revoked with immediate effect under Section 61 (2B) of The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.

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