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Taxi Forum Minutes Friday 7th February 2020

10:00am Council Chamber

Present:

Gary Winters (GW)
Paul Coombes (PC)
Shamim Ali (SA)
Jim Watson (JW)
Sue Whybrow (SW)
Mirwais Khosravi (MK)
Tyrone Archer (TA)
Trevor Ford (TF)
Julian Postlethwaite (JP)
Cllr Peter Feacey (PF)
Alison Simmonds (AS)
Natalie Pearce (NP)

Action Who When
Contact other Kent Licensing teams to find out about contactless payment methods in other boroughs AS By next forum
To contact departments about safety of crossing and possibility of closing off one junction in feeder car park TF  By next forum
Make a template for drivers and customers to fill in when they need to complain and to produce a vinyl sticker for the station rank shelter advising customers about refusals TF/AS/JP By next forum
Arrange a mystery shopping exercise in coming months – for short fares AS/JP  _

 

Minutes & Actions from last meeting

  • SW confirmed the overgrown shrub at the station has been dealt with
  • Station forecourt enforcement – South Eastern have not provided any letter to date.
  • Fares – TF confirmed the questions had been shared with reps prior to the Survey Monkey questionnaire being sent out.

Compliance failures and enforcement update

In 2019 29 sets of points were issued under our penalty points scheme for matters including; driving standards, bald tyres (a very frequent issue), failing to notify us of conviction, lights not working, emissions, defective wipers, speeding, failure to display plate, smoking in taxi, driving without due care, failure to disclose DVLA points, out of date fire extinguisher, brake lights stuck on, suspension bolt loose, failure to behave in civil matter to customers, not wearing drivers badge, and, failure to adhere to traffic regulation order.

Additionally; We have also gone to court for 1 driver appealing a decision to revoke – the court found in our favour,
A committee hearing for 1 applicant whether he was fit to be issued with a licence.
A committee hearing for a driver accumulating points,
2x drivers revoked for refusal of assistance dog,

Pending;
2 prosecutions (part heard) of refusing an assistance dog,
2 Court appeals against revocation of drivers licences for the same reason
1 committee hearing for 1 applicant whether he is fit to be issued with a licence.

Clarification was given to attendees that penalty points are not issued for every compliance failure, they are usually issued where there is a safety concern that was avoidable (e.g. a bald tyre). Attendees indicated that so long as those issued with points do not have reoccurring failures then they consider that the enforcement process seems to be having the desired effect Drivers limit on penalty points in any 12 month period is 12 and 24 for operators.

Fares and fees

TF confirmed the Licensing Committee met and there are no increase to fares

TF updated the forum on the Wakefield case law and how fees from licences must be proportionate and justified.

Vehicle owners in Wakefield appealed on the basis that Wakefield were charging them the enforcement costs associated with drivers. The claimants thought they were owed large sums in overpayments over a number of years. The outcome of the Court of Appeal was in essence, that Wakefield accepted it has wrongly apportioned driver enforcement to vehicles. However the case also highlighted that Wakefield were not recovering all costs that they were entitled, and that a large number of those vehicle owners were also drivers and therefore where they underpaid on one licence, they overpaid on another equalling out. Accordingly it is unlikely that there will be claims for restitution from the trade. However one key point was clarified by the Court of Appeal – and that is that council are entitled to recover all costs associated with the issue and the administration of the licensing regime associated with driver (such as enforcement)

This brings us onto our fees, which increased in line with inflation. Except; vehicle licences which did not increase and driver licenses which increased by £33 for a three year licence.

The increase on driver fees is to ensure that we do not end up in a position over time where cost of regulating drivers is borne by vehicle licensees. In this case the inflation increase associated with vehicle licenses has been transferred to the drivers licence fees so that overall there are no increases beyond inflation.

So to clarify, other than inflation, there is no greater level of income expected, but the apportionment has been adjusted. Like Wakefield it is likely that the totality of the costs that could be attributed to regulating the taxi trade well exceed the income of licence fees. (accommodation costs, hearing costs, etc).

Finally it was highlighted we retain one of the lowest driver fees in Kent, with vehicle fees being around the mid-point across the county.

Wheelchair accessible vehicles and assistance dogs

AS discussed, the duty all licence drivers have to convey people with assistance dogs and to convey and offer reasonable assistance to wheelchair bound passengers. This is a requirement of your private hire and/or hackney carriage byelaws. In addition, you have a duty to convey a pet dog unless you have ‘reasonable cause’ to refuse. No ‘reasonable cause’ has yet been tested in court but if the pet dog is not on a lead and acting aggressively, or covered in mud, for example, this is possibly a reasonable excuse.

Statutory guidance on Taxi licensing

JP advised there is no confirmed update on the consultation but it appears that it will almost definitely be a mandatory requirement that applicants will need to register on the DBS update service. In addition, formal and possibly countywide training on safeguarding (vulnerable adults and children), child sexual exploitation (CSE), County lines (drug dealing from cities to rural and coastal towns and villages) and disability awareness training will be mandatory. There would be additional cost for applicants for this training (both new and on renewal) at approximately £30-35. We will be working with other Kent Licensing Authorities to ensure a degree of consistency across the county.

Rank update

Tufton Street rank will be suspended while there is development of the land next to it. The date it starts and timescale are yet to be confirmed.

Bank Street rank will be closed from 17.02.20 for 1 week for utility works to be carried out.

Rep - Paul Coombes

PC asked if having a card reader in licensed vehicles could be considered as part of policy. Discussions were held between PC, TA and SW as to network issues and how this would work in areas more rural. AS suggested, those who use card payments systems licensing@ashford.gov.uk with the name and details of the system they use. AS will contact other Licensing authorities for further information on card payment machines and this will be fed back to the trade should driver’s want to consider using this method of payment.

PC also raised safety concerns at the feeder rank in the Stour centre car park. The lane to the right of the monitor and the footpath opposite is causing safety concerns for pedestrians and road users.

It was agreed that TF will raise with parking and property services to discuss possible alternatives to the current arrangements.

Rep – Sue Whybrow

SW raised concerns that drivers are taking too long to pull out of station rank when they have a passenger. Concern was raised as to drivers using satnav equipment for destinations which are commonplace.

TA raised concerns over ‘cherry-picking’ short journeys. A suggestion was made that Licensing could provide a template for drivers to fill in if they have a dissatisfied passenger so we can contact the passenger. This was agreed and is an action for Licensing. In addition, as to educate the public Licensing will provide a vinyl sticker for the station rank shelter about refusal of journeys to inform the public.

SW asked why more secret shopping isn’t done. AS and TF advised mystery shopping is conducted but not recently. An action was raised for a mystery shopping operation to be conducted in coming months. Short fare refusals was identified by the trade as their prime concern for mystery shopping.

SW raised concern that customers are approaching taxis in the station feeder rank and drivers are (obeying the ‘gentleman’s agreement’) by suggesting they walk to trap 1 at the station. It was generally accepted that as long as you mention to the customer the front of the rank is at the station, if they ask to still be taken by you, you cannot refuse because you are not 1st in the rank. A customer can choose whichever vehicle/driver they so wish.

As a point of interest, TF advised that in the last 2 years, there has been an increase of 2 extra hackney vehicles in the fleet.

PF asked how often attendees feel is appropriate to hold the forum. It was widely agreed every 6 months.

Next forum date - TBC