Review of our Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy
Review of our Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy
We are reviewing our Taxi Policy and want your views on the proposed changes.
Our Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy (taxi policy) was approved in 2016 and amended in 2018.
We review the policy at least every five years and makes such revisions as it considers appropriate at any other times.
What we are proposing
Local residents, businesses and visitors to County Durham are invited to share their views on the taxi policy. We have launched a public consultation over proposed changes to the way taxis and private hire vehicles are licensed and operated.
The key aim is to ensure the safety and welfare of the public, encourage environmental sustainability, and ensure efficient taxi and private hire services in County Durham.
This policy has been revised in line with the Department for Transport's recently published 'Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards'. The department expects their recommendations to be followed unless there is a compelling local reason not to do so.
We are proposing the following changes to our policy:
New national standards (Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards)
New Government standards on licensing.
There is evidence to support the view that taxis and private hire vehicles can be high-risk environments. In terms of risks to passengers, this can be seen in abuse and exploitation of children and vulnerable adults, in some cases involving taxi and private hire vehicle drivers.
The Policing and Crime Act 2017 enables the Secretary of State for Transport to issue statutory guidance on managing taxi and private hire vehicle licensing to protect children and vulnerable individuals who are over 18 from harm when using these services.
we can not depart from it just because we do not agree with it
we must give clear reasons for departing from it
There is an agreement that common core minimum standards are required to better regulate the taxi and private hire vehicle sector, and these standards are the result of detailed discussion with the trade, regulators and safety campaign groups. The Department for Transport therefore expects these recommendations to be implemented unless there is a compelling local reason not to.
We should publish how we are working to the guidance, and the policies or plans that support it.
Vehicle emissions and the age of licensed vehicles
How emissions will affect licensing.
To help reduce traffic pollution and improve air quality, we are proposing the following to improve the standards of licensed vehicles in County Durham:
new licences: from the date on which the new policy is adopted in 2021, all new applications for licensed vehicles will only be accepted if the vehicle to be licensed is less than four years old from the date of registration
existing vehicles: must be newer than eight years old from 1 April 2024 ie from 1 April 2024 all diesel and petrol engine vehicles will be Euro 6 or above
vehicles over eight years old: all existing licensed vehicles that are more than eight years old will not be re-licensed after 1 April 2024
wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAV): existing licensed WAV's will have an extra two years added to the age restriction, meaning that WAV's that are more than 10 years old will not be re-licensed after 1 April 2024
zero emission vehicles: fully electric and zero emission (at source) vehicles would be exempt from the age restriction / emissions policy
Convictions and offences
Our policy on criminal convictions.
Guidance states that we should have a clear policy around criminal records, which offences would permanently prevent an applicant from being licensed and, for lesser offences, the number of years we will require to have elapsed before we will grant a licence.
We propose to follow the Department of Transport's recommendations on the assessment of previous convictions.
Mandatory drug testing and convictions for drugs related offences.
Drugs are generally common in society, and some licensed drivers have received cautions and/or convictions for drug related offences.
We would require drug tests on drivers on both an intelligence-led and random-sample basis.
Additionally, any applicant may also have to undergo drugs testing at their own expense, to demonstrate that they are not using controlled drugs.
Suspension and revocation of driver licences
The process of suspending or revoking a licence.
We have the option to suspend or revoke a licence should we receive information that causes concern over whether a driver is a fit and proper person.
The decision to suspend or revoke is based on the evidence available at the time the decision was made, and new evidence may become available later. On appeal, a decision may be overturned based on new evidence, or settled by agreement between us and the driver. A decision to revoke a licence does not prevent the reissuing of a licence should further information be received.
A suspension may still be appropriate if it is believed that a minor issue can be addressed though additional training. In this instance the licence would be returned to the driver once the training has been completed without further consideration. This approach is clearly not appropriate where we believe that the driver presents a risk to public safety.
While most cases considering revocation will be referred to a licensing committee, we must be able to make immediate decisions if the matter is urgent/serious enough. It is recommended by Government that this role is delegated to a senior officer/manager with responsibility for the licensing service.
Safeguarding (including Child Sexual Exploitation) training
Refresher training should be taken every three years.
We should provide safeguarding advice and guidance to the trade and should require taxi and private hire vehicle drivers to undertake safeguarding training.
Currently we require all new drivers to have undergone training on the identification of Child Sexual Exploitation before being licensed. We consider that this training is so important that all drivers should undergo safeguarding refresher training every three years. These programmes have been developed to help drivers to:
provide a safe and suitable service to vulnerable passengers of all ages
recognise what makes a person vulnerable
understand how to respond, including how to report safeguarding concerns and where to get advice.
DBS checks for vehicle licence holders
DBS checks for people with a vehicle licence.
The Government recommends that we should require a basic disclosure for vehicle proprietors from the DBS and that a check is undertaken annually.
Subject to any driver related DBS checks already undertaken, we propose that all applicants for a vehicle licence must undergo a basic DBS check (enhanced DBS and barred list checks are not available for vehicle licensing). Any individual may apply for a basic check and the certificate will disclose any unspent convictions recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC).
We should consider whether an applicant or licence holder with a conviction for offences other than those relating to driving, meet the 'fit and proper' threshold.
'The driver needs to take active steps to ensure that the passenger is safe and comfortable and provide reasonable assistance to enable the passenger to use their service.'
In their consultation document, DPTAC recommends that it should be part of our role to make drivers aware of their duties in this area. To do this, we will need, with appropriate guidance from the government, to provide training for drivers on disability awareness and wider customer care issues.
We propose to include this requirement as part of the application process and for all drivers to assure their ongoing suitability to hold a licence.
DBS check for private hire operators' staff
DBS checks for staff who take bookings or dispatch vehicles.
A vehicle dispatcher decides which driver to send to a user, a position that could be used to exploit children and vulnerable adults.
Staff who have contact with private hire vehicle users and the dispatching of vehicles should not present an undue risk to the public or the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults. We need to be satisfied that private hire vehicle operators can show that the staff that have contact with the public and/or oversee the dispatching of vehicles do not pose a risk to the public.
As a condition of granting an operator licence, we will require:
an operator to keep a register of all staff who take bookings or dispatch vehicles
an operator to keep evidence that they have seen a basic DBS check on all individuals listed on their register
that a basic DBS check is done for any person added to the register and that this is compatible with their policy on employing ex-offenders
that people who start taking bookings and dispatching vehicles for an operator must advise the operator of any convictions they have, as part of their employment contract
a copy of the operators policy on employing ex-offenders in roles that would be on the register
Are there local circumstances which show that the installation of CCTV in vehicles would have either a positive or an adverse effect on the safety of taxi and private hire vehicle users? How would children or vulnerable adults be affected/ What privacy issues might there be?
contact us by email or to ask for a paper copy of the consultation information
The closing date for comments is midnight on Sunday 29 November 2020.
What happens next
Your replies will be reviewed and any amendments to the draft policy will be made. It will then go to our General Licensing and Registration Committee (GLRC), and then to our full Council meeting. Any changes will be adopted by April 2021.