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Picture shows Taxis in Newcastle- under-Lyme town centre

Draft Taxi Licensing Policy 2019-21

Statement from Cllr. Stephen Sweeney, Deputy Leader of the Council and the Cabinet member responsible for taxi licensing issues

“The Council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee will consider a draft Taxi Licensing Policy 2019-21 when councillors meet on 11 June.

“We have produced this draft policy to protect the safety and well-being of the travelling public. These are the foundations of what this policy is all about.

“Throughout the development of this policy we have kept a constant, open dialogue with representatives from the hackney carriage and private hire trade.

“Cllr. Mark Olszewski, the Chair of the committee, and I have met with the drivers and their representatives twice, officers have met with them on several occasions and we have listened carefully to the points they have made. We have also extended the consultation on the new policy twice at their request.

“As a result of these meetings with the trade, a different path forwards has been recommended in several areas:-

  • If someone receives three warnings during a set period they will be referred to a meeting of councillors who will then consider if any action is required against the driver’s licence. We are recommending that this system replaces a proposed penalty points system which the drivers and operators objected to.
     
  • Switching to electric vehicles - the Government is pressing councils such as ours to tackle air quality problem areas and encouraging drivers to move to electric vehicles. People can licence them if they want to, and there will be benefits if they do, but we are no longer recommending that all new/replacement saloon hackney carriages (black cabs) must be electric vehicles.
     
  • Original proposals for vehicles not being licensed for the first time past three-years-old has been changed to past four-years old.
     
  • Operators objected to our proposals that they would have to keep logbooks of service history for self-employed drivers. We have listened to them on this point too and amended our recommendation to councillors in light of their comments. We are now recommending that we remove this requirement on operators. It is the vehicle owner that is best placed to keep a record of the vehicle’s maintenance, which is included in the proposed vehicle conditions, and that it would be too onerous and disproportionate to require an operator, who may not own that vehicle, to keep those records and make those checks. 

There are around 1,100 drivers licensed in our borough and the Council’s goal is to ensure we have the best framework in place to ensure hackney carriage and private hire drivers - and their vehicles – provide a service which puts the safety and welfare of the travelling public as the first priority.

“We are not prepared to accept the lowering of any standards which would impact upon this priority. Our draft policy will help to ensure standards are kept at a high level.

“We understand some drivers are threatening to apply for licences at other councils where perhaps standards are not as high as ours. This is not illegal but the travelling public should surely be asking local operators whether this is something which they think puts customer safety and welfare as the most important priority. 

“We also understand some drivers are not happy with the draft policy and are threatening action which will impact on their customers if they do not get all of their own way with further changes to the policy. This is deeply regrettable but the Council believes its first duty is to safeguard standards and public safety.”

Media reports have outlined a list of issues from drivers – as well as the four points they have raised where we have recommended changes after listening to them. 

These other issues – together with the Council’s responses – are outlined below so the public can consider for themselves if our actions are putting their safety and well-being in jeopardy or rather, as the local authority believes, are putting them first and foremost.

  • A new type of testing system won't be as efficient as the Stoke-on-Trent College BTEC qualification drivers already have.

At the moment, drivers have to do a BTEC - equivalent to a Level Two NVQ - which includes modules such as passenger assistance for people with mobility issues and customer service. They also have to do a test which includes topographic questions – such as how to get from A to B locally – and this is done at Burslem College.  

What councillors are considering is this:-

     (A) The BTEC continues
     (B) Either a new standard test of English is introduced, or a knowledge test will be carried by council staff. This will include topography questions and checking awareness of safeguarding and other important responsibilities. Officers will monitor understanding of English and ability to communicate in English as part of this internal test.

  • They say they'll have to wait between five and eight weeks for an appointment to renew their licences.

Applicants may have to wait up to four weeks for an appointment due to the high level of applications we are receiving. We send existing drivers a reminder three months before their licence expires to help speed up the process. Unfortunately, many leave renewals and applications until the last minute.

  • It will cost customers more.

The Council does not believe any part of the proposed policy will have a detrimental impact on operators or drivers to the extent that they have to ask customers to pay more for the services provided. 

  • It will reduce service and safety standards.

We believe the new policy will do the exact opposite. What we are trying to do is improve safety standards for the travelling public by ensuring we have properly regulated and monitored hackney carriage and private hire services licensed in our borough.    

  • It will send drivers out of the borough for licences.

As I said earlier, I understand some drivers are threatening to apply for licences at other councils where perhaps standards are not as high as ours. This is not illegal but the travelling public should surely be asking local operators whether this is something which they think puts customer safety and welfare as the most important priority.

  • Threatened strike action.

These threats are very disappointing as this punitive action will directly impact on customers and it is something the drivers said would not happen again when they held talks with us and the police after previous disruptions.
 


Last updated 4 June 2019

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