Cabinet Portfolio: - Waste, Roads and Community Safety
Strategic Directorate: - Regeneration and Environment
Consideration was given to a report that was submitted for pre-decision scrutiny ahead of the Cabinet meeting scheduled for 15 February 2021 that detailed proposed amendments to the Council’s Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy, 2020-2023 regarding the issuing of vehicle licence plates. The Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety and the Assistant Director - Community Safety and Street Scene attended the meeting to present the report.
The report stated in March 2020 the Council had approved a new Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy where it had also been recommended that additional public consultation regarding the issuing of vehicle licence plates be carried out. It was noted that under the current Licensing Policy all licensed vehicles were required to undergo regular compliance checks with a maximum of three compliance checks per year for vehicles that were over five years of age with licence plates being issued for the duration of a compliance check. It was noted that this policy had been introduced so as to ensure that all vehicles attended their required compliance checks and provided a visible reminder to drivers that their test was due. As a result of this policy across the Borough, 237 vehicles had been issued with two licence plates per year and 639 vehicles had been issued with three licence plates per year.
The Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety noted that the Council had carried out a further consultation on this specific issue between December 2020 and January 2021. This consultation had focused on the views of the public, as the views of trade representatives, licensed drivers and Elected Members had already been captured. A summary of the 149 responses that had been received from the consultation were attached as an appendix to the officer’s report.
The Cabinet Member advised that response to the consultation had shown broad support for amendments to the Licensing Policy that would enable automatic reminders to be issued to drivers when their compliance check was due and that would also report on whether a vehicle had attended its latest compliance check. The Cabinet Member advised that with such safeguards in place it would in future be possible to issue just one plate a year. The Cabinet Member noted that the proposed amendment would enable the costs surrounding the issue of vehicle licence plates to be reduced for both the Council and also for drivers, as well as saving 112 square metres of used non-recyclable plastic licence plates being sent to landfill each year. It was noted that the proposed amendment had also been supported by the Licensing Board.
Members welcomed the proposals that would lead to more efficient procedures that would benefit the Council as well as drivers. Members sought assurances that the new processes and systems would ensure that if a compliance check was not completed then a licence plate would be removed. The Cabinet Member advised that she was fully confident that the proposed processes, and the systems that managed them would ensure that compliance checks were managed correctly, and that any incidents of non-compliance would result in licence plate being removed. The Chair sought assurances on the robustness of the IT systems to manage the tasks required by the proposed changes to the Licensing Policy. The Assistant Director - Community Safety and Street Scene assured the Chair that the IT systems were robust enough to manage the tasks required to issue reminders and to flag up any issues of concern.
Members asked why the relatively small and specific consultation exercise on the proposed change had taken so long to complete. The Assistant Director noted that the consultation had initially been delayed by the onset of the pandemic when staff resources had been deployed on other activities. The Assistant Director advised that it had also been hoped to use other methods of consultation in addition to online activities, but that when restrictions related to the pandemic had been re-imposed these plans had had to be abandoned and an online only consultation be carried out.
Members asked with reference to the Licensing Policy for further information on DBS Checks. The Assistant Director advised that an Enhanced DBS check was always required for drivers, and that as an extra level of security and safety for the public, staff who worked for taxi firms in support roles were also required to have a Basic DBS check. The Assistant Director advised that for staff in support roles only, that if a DBS check could not be carried out then the Operator must outline the steps that they have taken to demonstrate how they were satisfied that an individual was a fit and proper person.
The Chair thanked the Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety and the Assistant Director - Community Safety and Street Scene for attending the meeting and answering members’ questions.
That Cabinet be advised that the recommendations be supported.