The Director of Housing and Neighbourhoods submitted a report outlining the current processes that were followed with regard to the issuing of licences to drivers, vehicles and private hire operators. It also set out proposals to improve driver and vehicle standards, strengthen existing policy and processes and provided an overview of the actions that the Licensing Team would be taking in light of the findings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham 1997-2013 (Professor Alexis Jay OBE).
The report set out in detail:-
- Overview of the licensing of hackney carriages, private hire vehicles, private hire operators and drivers
- Police notifications
- Responsible Authorities meeting
- Actions to be taken by Licensing following publication of the Alex Jay report
- Clarification of the current scheme of delegation/proposal for revised delegation in relation to hackney carriage and private hire licensing
- Proposals to strengthen the existing application process
- Mandatory child safeguarding and other training
- Vehicle standards
- Knowledge test
Discussion ensued with the following issues raised/clarified:-
· There was new Legislation working its way through Parliament with regard to someone other than the licensed driver driving the vehicle
· A vehicle owner’s character could not be taken into account when considering whether to licence the vehicle according to Legislation
· In many cases the licensed operator did not actually drive the vehicle(s). There was no clear legal definition of what constituted a Fit and Proper Person and this was open to a degree of local interpretation. Drivers/potential drivers who came before the Board were dealt with on the information before them and the Board decided as to whether the person was fit and proper
· Included in the review was the appropriateness/availability of Enforcement Officers
· There was a condition attached to the licence requiring companies to keep records of where their taxis were at all times
· A limousine company that provided alcohol had to be dual licensed
· Operators that had large vehicles were licenced through VOSA (Vehicle and Operator Services Agency) but could use a smaller vehicle and be exempt from being licensed by the local authority. VOSA did not carry out individual driver checks. VOSA was being challenged on this issue
· The Police would not automatically be notified if a licensed driver’s licence was revoked but there was an internal escalation policy which clearly set out which agencies should be notified. If there were concerns relating to the welfare of children or vulnerable adults, this would be referred to the appropriate agency such as Children’s Services, Adult Safeguarding and the Police
· A number of local authorities had a policy whereby a vehicle could be no more than 5 years old. Rotherham did not have such a policy but a check was made on a vehicle when an application was made. The new Policy would accord with national standards
· The Authority had actively encouraged taxi drivers to install CCTV cameras in their vehicles for some time and could be included as part of the consultation
· The review was welcomed to bring the Authority in line with others
Resolved:- (1) That the current processes in relation to driver licence applications, suspensions and revocations be noted and it is confirmed that the Licensing Board was satisfied that the current arrangements met the Council’s obligations in relation o taxi/private hire licensing.
(2) That the actions proposed by the Licensing Team in light of the findings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham be approved and supported.
(3) That the clarification of the delegation to officers by the Licensing Board, as detailed in Appendix 2, be approved.
(4) That the development of proposals to strengthen the application process (in consultation with the taxi/private hire trade and other relevant stakeholders) with a view to submitting a report to the December meeting of the Licensing Board, or sooner, seeking the introduction of the reviewed application process.
(5) That the development of revised/consolidated vehicle standards (in consultation with the taxi/private hire trade and other relevant stakeholders) be approved with a report being submitted to the December meeting of the Licensing Board, or sooner, seeking the introduction of the revised vehicle standards.
(6) That a consolidated and comprehensive Taxi and Hackney Carriage Licensing Policy be submitted to the December meeting of the Licensing Board, or sooner, suitable for public consultation.
(7) That an update be submitted to the December Board meeting on discussions with VOSA with regard to the licensing of limousines.