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Apologies for Absence
Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Biederman, Bulled, Henderson and Yabsley.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meetings held on 27 April 2022 and 14 June 2022 (circulated previously) be approved as correct records and signed by the Chair.
Declarations of Interests
There were no declarations of interest announced.
Report by the Public Protection Manager (attached).
The Committee considered a report on Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy Amendments (circulated previously) by the Public Protection manager.
The Public Protection manager introduced Lee Staples, Environmental Health and Licensing Practitioner to the meeting who gave the following update to the Committee:
· Following the Licensing and Community Safety Committee meeting held on 8 March 2022 a community consultation was run online from 16 March to 11 May 2022 seeking comments on the proposed policy amendments.
· The responses received were very constructive and were considered very carefully. Where practicable amendments were formulated because of comments received.
· The following amendments have been made:
Ø Vehicle standards in particular were being looked at with the licenced vehicle age criteria (vehicle standards), to better align to the Council’s corporate priority around protecting the environment;
Ø It was decided not to make CCTV in vehicles mandatory but to clarify the standards for systems that might be installed so had introduced technical specifications and system requirements for any new CCTV systems fitted within licenced vehicles. Those vehicles who had already had CCTV installed were not being asked to have the system removed;
Ø Introduction of day-to-day maintenance logging checks undertaken daily and proprietors to keep logs of who was driving and when;
Ø Removal of sun strip visors on private hire vehicles– which was to be replaced with door signage; and
Ø Drivers to attend an interview when a complaint was received. To be undertaken in a timely manner.
· 52 responses were received from the public with some very lengthy comments.
· As a result of considering the comments received further changes were made to the amendments of the policy such as:
Ø Retaining the current upper age limit for plating a new licenced vehicle at 5 years of age as opposed to the 3 years as proposed, but linking this to a requirement for these vehicles to also be Euro 6 emission standard or above;
Ø The emphasis would be on the emissions of the vehicle in line with the Corporate environmental priority;
Ø Cost considerations was the biggest concern amongst drivers completing the survey especially following on from loss of income due to the Covid-19 pandemic and more recently the high inflation costs;
Ø A draft best practice guide recently released by Central Government indicated that they did not favour an age based policy;
Ø This was felt to be a proportionate response to the information received;
Ø Likewise, the proposal to introduce an upper age limit for vehicle renewal was amended to correspond to emission limits as opposed to vehicle age, specifically Euro 6 emissions standard. To allow for older vehicles currently licenced with the Local Authority a built in delay to updating vehicles to Euro 6 emission standards was being proposed to January 2026, to give those drivers time to purchase newer vehicles;
Ø Wheelchair accessible vehicles were to be allowed a lower emission standard as it was accepted it was more expensive to buy those types of vehicles and ... view the full minutes text for item 23.
Taxi Legislation Update
Presentation by Lee Staples, Licensing Consultant.
The Committee received a presentation on taxi and private hire legislation update.
Lee Staples, Environmental Health and Licensing Practitioner presented the following to the Committee:
· Two important pieces of legislation had recently been passed;
Ø Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle (Disabled Persons) Act 2022; and
Ø Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Safeguarding and Road Safety) Act 2022.
· The main legislation in use for taxis and private hire vehicles was the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 (concerned with horse and cart Hackney carriages) and the Local Government Misc. Provisions 1976 (introduced regulation to private hire vehicles).
· Big changes in society had taken place since these two pieces of legislation were adopted chiefly mobile telephone use and app based services and cross-border hiring.
· A Task and Finish Parliamentary working group, which included leading industry figures as well as legal professional, was set up in 2019 and undertook a major review of the taxi industry.
· 34 significant recommendations were made which included:
Ø Companies acting as intermediaries between passengers and taxi drivers should meet the same licensing requirements and obligations as private hire vehicle operators;
Ø The Best Practise Guidance had been updated with new definitions for ‘pre-booked’ and –plying for hire’ which took into account app based providers;
Ø The use Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN’s) as a means of enforcement against any taxi or private hire vehicle regardless of who issued a licence (i.e. out of LA area). FPN’s could be used as alternative to sub-Committee hearings or prosecution;
Ø A recommendation on the mandatory use of in-vehicle CCTV would need to be monitored and reviewed periodically by North Devon Council as at present the policy did not call for mandatory installation of in-vehicle CCTV;
Ø Licensing Authorities were to publish a list of wheelchair accessible vehicles. This was now law under the Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle (Disabled Persons) Act 2022;
Ø The Equality Act 2010 introduced ‘concept of reasonable adjustment i.e. making changes and alterations so that as far as reasonable disabled persons had the same access to everything as a non-disabled person. There were around 14 million disabled people in the UK with approximately 80% of those having hidden disabilities. A reasonable adjustment for wheelchair users was a ramp but for those with a learning disability it might be dictation software;
Ø The Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle (Disabled Persons) Act 2022 came into force on 28 June and placed duties on taxi and private hire vehicle drivers and operators, so any disabled person had specific rights and protections to be transported and receive assistance when using a taxi or Private Hire Vehicle without being charged extra;
Ø Help for visually impaired passengers would be given by drivers to help with identifying or finding the vehicle;
Ø Drivers could face a fine of up to £1,000 if they failed to provide reasonable mobility assistance to disabled passengers taking a pre-booked vehicle;
Ø Drivers could apply, to the licensing authority, for an exemption to give these extra aids ... view the full minutes text for item 24.
The Public Protection Manager to report.
The Public Protection manager gave the Committee a report on Licensing Consultees.
The Committee received the following information:
· It had been raised at meetings previously and more recently via email re Parish Councils becoming a statutory consultee when dealing with Licensing applications.
· Responsible Authorities included Devon and Cornwall Police, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, North Devon Council Environmental Protection, North Devon Council Planning Authority, Devon County Council Business, Strategy and Support Services (Child protection), Devon County Council Trading Standards, Public Health Devon, Home office Immigration Enforcement, North Devon Council Health and Food Safety and North Devon Council Licensing.
· Blue notices had to be displayed prominently at a premises where a licence was being applied for.
· Adverts had to be placed in the local newspaper.
· The North Devon Council website posted licence applications that were pending and this had a filter search function of choosing by Ward.
· Extending the Responsible Authority status to a Parish or Town Council had not been done before at North Devon. It was likely there were Local Authorities across Devon that did include, as a consultee, the Parish or Town Council.
· There were reservations about staff capacity to add in a further consultee and resourcing and funding would need to be looked at.
· It was felt that a Parish or Town Council could know about licence applications being made in their community.
In response to a question around the automation of notifying external parties, the Public Protection manager advised that the Council was looking to procure new software, which would have far more advanced features than the current version. New software could have the ability to automate sending out notifications to interested parties, and this was something which would be explored on successful procurement.
RESOLVED that the position on Licensing Consultees be noted.
To consider and adopt the minutes of the following meetings (attached):
(a) Licensing and Community Safety Sub-Committee A: 15 July 2022
(b) Licensing and Community Safety Sub-Committee B: 14 June 2022
(c) Licensing and Community Safety Sub-Committee C: 24 August 2022
RESOLVED that the minutes of the following sub-committees (circulated previously) be approved as correct records and signed by the Chair of each sub-committee:
(a) Licensing and Community Safety Sub-Committee A held on 15 July 2022;
(b) Licensing and Community Safety Sub-Committee B held on 14 June 2022; and
(c) Licensing and Community Safety Sub-Committee C held on 24 August 2022.