Venue: Council Chamber Town Hall. View directions
An apology for absence was received on behalf of Councillor Aled Evans.
Declarations of Interest
To invite Councillors to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests and / or Other Disclosable Interests they may have in items on the agenda, and to confirm the nature of those interests.
There were no declarations of interest.
To confirm as a true record the Minutes of the meeting of Licensing Committee held on 8th November 2021.
the minutes of the meeting of the Licensing Committee held on 8th November 2021 be approved as a true and correct record and signed by the Chair.
Mr A. Nazir attended the Licensing Committee meeting to speak on behalf of the Redditch Taxi Association, under the Council’s public speaking rules, and commented on the draft hackney carriage and private hire licensing policy and the request of variation to the hackney carriage table of fares, at Minute Item No.s 19 and 20 on the agenda.
Draft hackney carriage and private hire licensing policy PDF 224 KB
The Senior Practitioner (Licensing) (SPL) Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) presented the draft hackney carriage and private hire licensing policy for the Committee’s consideration.
The Committee was advised that consultation in respect of the content of the draft policy had been undertaken and Members were required to have regard to the responses that had been received. The final approved version of the policy was scheduled to come into effect from 1st September 2022 onwards.
The Department for Transport (DfT) had issued new statutory standards and licensing authorities were expected to update their hackney carriage and private hire licensing policies in response to this. In reviewing the local policy for Redditch, Officers noted that many of the statutory standards were already being met. However, there were some standards that had not previously been addressed and these had been incorporated into the updated policy. Amendments to the policy included proposed changes in respect of age criteria for vehicles. In addition, changes had been proposed in respect of medical checks for drivers.
The consultation exercise in respect of this policy had taken place over a period of 12 weeks, starting in May 2021. There had been options available for interested parties to respond in writing both online and in paper form. Officers had also engaged with representatives of relevant organisations, interest groups and local businesses. The feedback that had been provided during the consultation process had been analysed by Officers. None of the responses that had been received had persuaded Officers of the need for changes to be made to the policy.
The SPL responded to Members’ questions regarding proposed changes to the age criteria for vehicles and the number of vehicle tests that would be required once a vehicle was 10 years old. Officers clarified that the current requirements were for drivers to arrange for their vehicle to be subject to two safety checks per year until the vehicle was nine years old and was subject to three safety checks thereafter. Under the proposed changes, the age limit would be extended to 10 years, whereby two safety checks could be undertaken per year and then three checks would be undertaken thereafter.
Members subsequently debated the proposed policy changes in detail and in doing so commented that it would be helpful for the changes to the age criteria to be approved with immediate effect, rather than to wait until September 2022. A number of changes were subsequently suggested and agreed to the draft policy:
· Changes were suggested to Section 3 of the policy, in regard to the shift to electric vehicles, to replace references to 31st December 2025 to instead bring these requirements into place from 1st January 2030. This proposal was made on the basis that this would bring the arrangements into line with national guidelines, was based on the feedback received through consultation and would provide clarity.
· The following updates were proposed to the vehicle age criteria:
- New hackney carriages (replacement vehicles) / private hire vehicles
Hackney Carriage Table of Fares - Request for Variation PDF 232 KB
The SPL WRS presented a report detailing a request that had been received for variation to the hackney carriage table of fares.
The Committee was informed that one of the responsibilities of the licensing authority was to set the maximum fare that could be charged by hackney carriage vehicles. This maximum fare was set out in the hackney carriage table of fares.
Private hire operators could negotiate a fare with a customer in advance of the journey. Many private hire operators had been increasing fares in order to cover increasing costs. However, hackney carriage drivers did not have the same flexibility.
In 2018 the Licensing Committee had agreed increases to the hackney carriage table of fares. Prior to this date, increases had not been made to the maximum fares that could be charged by hackney carriage drivers for many years and Members had requested that this should be reviewed more regularly in future.
The Redditch Taxi Association had reported in November 2021 that their members did not want to vary fares for hackney carriages. However, since then, fuel costs had increased considerably and in January 2022, the Redditch Taxi Association had approached Officers to request that consideration be given to increasing the fares. The changes proposed by the Redditch Taxi Association at that time would have resulted in an increase to the maximum fares of 12.3 per cent.
Fuel costs had subsequently increased further and in March 2022 the Redditch Taxi Association had approached the Council to request further increases for all of the tariffs. This would mean that the tariffs in the table of fares for the first 880 yards would be:
£4 for tariff 1
£5.25 for tariff 2
£7.20 for tariff 3
In considering the request that had been received from the Redditch Taxi Association Members were asked to note that fuel costs had increased even in the time since the agenda for the meeting of the Licensing Committee had been published. For this reason, updated information about fuel costs had been issued in a supplementary pack for Members’ consideration. The figures provided in this supplementary pack contained information obtained from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) weekly list of fuel pump prices. Members were advised that petrol prices were 22.9 per cent more expensive and diesel prices were 23.7 per cent more expensive than they had been when the Council’s hackney carriage table of fares had previously been set.
The Committee was also asked to note that the request had been made by the Redditch Taxi Association in a context in which there had been increases in the cost of living nationally. Inflation was approximately 6 per cent although it was anticipated that it would increase to 7 per cent by April 2022.
In order to change the hackney carriage table of fares, the licensing authority was required to publish proposed variations in a public notice. Should no objections be received to these proposed increases, the new fares would come into effect. However, ... view the full minutes text for item 20.
Update on engagement with stakeholders in relation to proposals for the creation/amendment of stands for hackney carriages PDF 168 KB
The SPL WRS provided an update on engagement with stakeholders in relation to proposals for the creation and amendment of stands for hackney carriages in Redditch.
Members were advised that three options had been considered as part of this process:
· To introduce a new hackney carriage stand at the railway station.
· To introduce a new hackney carriage stand at the Alexandra Hospital.
· To move the existing hackney carriage stand from Unicorn Hill to Bates Hill.
In respect of the options for a hackney carriage stand at the railway station, officers had met with representatives of West Midlands Trains to discuss the suggestion further. The representatives from West Midlands Trains had indicated that they would be willing to offer some of the space in the car park at the railway station to be used for a hackney carriage stand. However, in line with arrangements in place in other parts of the region, drivers using the stand would need to be prepared to pay a fee for a permit equivalent to £11 per week or £565 per year.
Officers had subsequently undertaken consultation with the hackney carriage trade regarding the level of interest amongst drivers in the potential to introduce a hackney carriage rank at the railway station and the extent to which they would be willing to pay for a permit to utilise this rank. In total, 54 answers had been received and 87 per cent of the respondents had been keen for a dedicated taxi space to be introduced at the station. However, only 13 per cent of the respondents had been prepared to pay a fee for the permit at the level proposed by West Midlands Trains. Furthermore, the majority of drivers were not prepared to pay a fee at all. Only seven of the respondents had been prepared to pay the proposed fee.
In respect of the proposed introduction of a hackney carriage stand at the Alexandra Hospital, Officers had attempted to make contact with the hospital regarding this matter. However, to date, Officers had not been able to engage with representatives of the hospital in relation to this subject. Attempts would continue to be made to enter into dialogue with the hospital regarding this matter.
In terms of the potential move of the existing taxi rank on Unicorn Hill to Bates Hill, the Committee was informed that there was a requirement to liaise with Worcestershire County Council in relation to the relevant Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) as well as West Mercia Police. A number of stakeholder meetings had been held which had been attended by representatives of the Council and the police. The options that had been considered included:
· Not making changes to the existing taxi rank on Unicorn Hill.
· Maintaining the current size of the hackney carriage rank but only operating the rank in the evening.
· Retaining some of the existing hackney carriage rank for taxis and converting other sections into short-term parking spaces.
· Removing the rank altogether and converting all the space for parking.
Members ... view the full minutes text for item 21.
Members considered the content of the Licensing Committee’s work programme. There was general agreement that the following items should be added to the Committee’s work programme for further consideration:
· The hackney carriage table of fares.
· Different mechanisms available to the Council for setting the hackney carriage table of fares, taking into account the approach adopted by other Councils.
The Committee was informed that at the start of the 2022/23 municipal year, officers would meet with the Chair of the Licensing Committee and the relevant lead Portfolio Holder to discuss the issues that Members might wish to take forward for the Committee’s consideration during the year.
subject to the amendments detailed in the preamble above, the Committee’s work programme be noted.