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Taxi Forum Minutes Wednesday 19 September 2018

Committee Room 1

Present:
Cllr Peter Feacey (PF) - Chair  Mark Sansby (MS) VisionTrack 
Abdul Chowdry (AC) Paul Duddy (PD)
Cllr Brad Bradford (BB) Rob Robinson (RR)
Ivan Auty (IA)  Shyam Lama (SL)
Cllr Jenny Webb (JW) Simon Oldfield (SO)
Jim Watson (JW) Sue Wybrow (SW)
John Dorkins (JD) Trevor Ford (TF)
Julian Postlethwaite (JP) Trevor Smith (TS)
Ken Runciman (KR) Tyrone Archer (TA)
Kieron Leader (KL) Nizam Udin (NU)

 

Action Items
Action  Who  When
Overgrown Shrub Station Approach: To be revisited. BB  
Station Forecourt Enforcement – letter from South Eastern: To be circulated to the Forum once received. TF  
Fares – Proposed questions to be shared with the Forum Reps before going on to a Survey Monkey questionnaire. TF  

Review of the Previous Minutes/Actions:

  • Junction Access Mirror: Action was for Sue to invite Trevor to look at this issue; meeting not yet taken place. In addition to this Sue had also requested that the shrubbery by the roundabout be cut; it was trimmed following this request but it is felt it was not satisfactory. BB said he would revisit.
  • To investigate Park Street access restrictions: Kieron Leader contacted KCC who advised they were not opposed to the idea of changing the order if there is a workable solution. The loading solution is going ahead; KCC are happy with proposals. Two disabled bays to be located by Po Thai.
  • With reference to the George public house rank in the High Street, ABC is consulting on the town centre and it is therefore suggested that any amendment to the order is carried out in conjunction with any changes resulting from this. Those present were urged to access the consultation online and respond with comments.
  • Elwick Place Hotel – query over drop-off area: It was confirmed that this will also be a drop-off point for the public.
  • SW to arrange to meet TF to ‘test’ intercom: The test has taken place and a notice has been added as follows “auto intercom – do not press”, as this was the problem. This appears to be working sufficiently.
  • TF to consult Forum Reps on Taxi Policy proposed amendments: Consultation took place with one response received. A report went to the council’s Cabinet meeting on 13th September and changes have been incorporated.
  • TF to provide PC/SW a list of current taxi limits in Kent: Completed. This relates to Hackney vehicles. TF advised the increase was generally only 1 to 2 per annum, taking into account natural drop-offs and surrenders. Concern was raised in respect of viability of Hackney businesses. SW raised the issue of number of taxis making profits; she feels there is no competition as fares are set. TF reminded the Forum it is a maximum fare and they can charge less. BB reminded the Forum that the Cabinet makes the decision and he felt the market regulates itself.
  • Drivers to evidence why they feel it is good practice to limit spaces and how is it in the public’s interest: Discussion surrounded the need to demonstrate that any restriction should be in the public interest. Little evidence has been put forward to enable the Council to adequately consider such a proposal.
  • Drivers to pass to licensing evidence/details of drivers refusing small fares: The Forum was reminded the council needs to be notified of these drivers, along with evidence. Reports will be recorded and investigated.
  • JP/AS to update and amend questions on the hackney test: There are now two Hackney tests.  Station feeder bin relocation update: This was raised before the installation of a bench; it is not likely to be moved now that the bench is installed
  • Station feeder notice board: Although a good idea in principle this will be a costly exercise (approx. £1k plus maintenance) and there are other better and quicker means of getting information out (i.e. via email). The costs, including maintenance, of the notice board will be included in the license fees. The Chair held a vote and there was only one for (SW), therefore this will not be pursued.

In addition to the actions the following was also discussed:

  • TA felt there were lots of people from outside the town who are not familiar with the various taxi rank areas. KL advised he will be speaking to KCC about signage in the town centre and is happy to add better signage to taxi ranks to this.
  • Bus stop clearway along Elwick Road: Plans are to enable taxis to use as a rank outside of bus timetable (operating hours). Signage will be installed when available for use.

CCTV in taxis: types, benefits, legal requirements and costs – A presentation by VisionTrack:

Mark Sansby of VisionTrack gave a presentation on camera solutions for taxis and public hire vehicles, which included the benefits of installing a CCTV camera and the types available. Some of the benefits include it being a credible witness and useful in an accident, therefore reducing insurance claims. It was noted that accusations have been made in the past and CCTV has proven it completely unfounded. ABC has no mandatory need for cameras in licensed vehicles but some authorities have (these are usually the internal facing cameras). A copy of the presentation is circulated with these notes.

POST MEETING NOTE: As time was tight MS was unable to complete the presentation, but wanted to draw people’s attention to the recommendations at the end. These are: to fit a Dash Camera (minimum); the ideal solution of using a multi camera DVR based system with internal camera and a forward facing camera (if allowed); registering with the ICO; being covered by the correct signage; adhering to the MOT and construction in use regulations; reviewing footage on any system fitted. All of these can be found on page 20&21 of the presentation circulated with the minutes.

Questions:

  • SW asked how safe the cameras are and was advised they are glued to the screen and usually sited in a position where the public is unable to see them.
  • SW asked how many times data can be written over the memory cards. The MLC can be written over 3000 times in comparison to a standard which is 1000 times.
  • SW asked who can demand to see the footage. When registered with the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) only the police and local authority can but they will need a good reason to.
  • PD asked about the removal of the devices when changing over cars and was advised of the options to do this.

LoCASE funding for Vehicle Owners – A presentation by KCC:

Rob Robinson of KCC gave a presentation on LoCASE funding that is currently available, which included the following:

  • the percentage of grant a business can expect to receive
  • electric and hybrid models covered
  • funding for used vehicles (these need to fit the criteria)
  • Plug-in car grants
  • Schemes to assist with charging points
  • How the KCC can help
  • Timescales

All of this is covered in some FAQs around the scheme that are appended to these notes, along with some other useful information and which includes the majority of questions raised at the meeting.

PD asked if the council will be installing more charging points and was advised if the trade was interested the council will look at this, an example being the back of the feeder rank. RR said there is Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) funding available for this.

Low Emission Vehicles and ‘Free’ Licensing:

ABC is in the process of developing an Air Quality strategy. As part of this the Council will be looking at offering an incentive to encourage taxi companies/drivers to move to greener vehicles. Funding has been identified for up to ten vehicles per year for the next three years; this will be an offer of three years free licensing fees to those who move over to green vehicles. If there is interest the council will pursue with the aspiration of coming into effect from April next year. There was some concern over the hybrid vehicle repair and the time taken to source relevant parts. The Forum was asked what their interest would be in this and was advised it is worth looking into the vehicles that are listed as the most reliable. The majority were in favour.

Fuel Efficiency Training: Driver Training:

ABC are proposing to facilitate this. The training will be free for companies, their drivers and individual drivers. The Forum were asked if they would be interested and if the taxi companies would send drivers? The training will be practical sessions and people will be able to secure a place via a booking system. Any comments to come to the licensing generic email.

Taxi Rank Update:

TF met with South Eastern as there are continued issues with vehicles in the station forecourt. They have stated that should only be two taxis in the marked bays in the rank area (not three) and they can should only drop off or pick up from the front of the bus lane, so as not to impede bus flow. South Eastern has indicated that they will be carrying out some enforcement, as this is their land. They were invited to the meeting but have not taken up the offer. South Eastern will be writing to the Council outlining these issues and TF will circulate to the Forum if and when received. Any feedback will need to go directly to South Eastern (as the land owners).

Taxi Enforcement Update:

JP gave the Forum an overview of the Licensing Team’s workload and an enforcement update. This included:

  • A refusal for no DBS certificate
  • Revocations for child sexual concerns
  • A revocation for inappropriate advances to a young female
  • Immediate revocation for public safety concerns
  • Upcoming court attendance for: an appeal against a refusal to grant a license and an appeal against immediate revocation for public safety concerns
  • Points issued in August/September: 4 for incomplete record keeping, 3 for failure to display plate, 3 for obstruction of an officer, 3 for failing to assist customers with a larger vehicle (on feeder), 3 for driving without due care and 9 for driving a vehicle without a valid compliance
  • Mystery Shopping: 7 short fares (4 x station & 3 x Wilko ranks) – no refusals
  • Ongoing criminal investigations: unlicensed driver operator & vehicle, and one for refusal to take an assistance dog

TF advised the Forum that this is just a snap shot that includes the items of significance.

Fare Setting:

This survey is due to be published in October and will be published on the Forum webpage for feedback. SW had concerns over the way the questions are shared on Monkey Survey. TF to share any proposed questions with taxi reps prior to survey.

Taxi Licensing Policy:

Suggested amendments to the Policy included: Suitability of applicants’ guidance, the appeals process (which is now through the magistrates’), good conduct certificates and the prevention of dual plated vehicles.

Christmas Closures (closed 22nd December to 30th December, and 1st January):

The Council offices will be closed as detailed above and will only be running an emergency service.

Ashford MOT centre is closed on these dates too, and additionally will only be open on 31st December for emergency compliances only.

Dementia Friendly Training:

A Dementia Friends session specifically for taxi drivers is being held on 26th October at 11:00 at the Civic Centre. The session, which lasts about 45 minutes is being led by Liz Taylor from the Alzheimer Society. Leaflets were handed out, and an email was sent out to the trade circulation list. Confirmation of attendance should be emailed to: jennifer.shaw@ashford.gov.uk.