Members were asked to consider a report setting out information regarding the requirement for drivers to undertake disability awareness training and driving assessments as introduced in the Council’s Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Driver Licensing Policy in November 2017.
The Senior Practitioner (Licensing) (SPL), Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) presented the report and summarised the background. Members were reminded that the current Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Driver Licensing Policy (the revised policy) had come into effect on 1st December 2017 (Appendix 1).
The revised policy had included a new requirement that licensed drivers undertake disability awareness training and driving standards assessments every three years. Prior to the policy being introduced drivers had only been required to undertake such training once when they first became licensed.
These new requirements had resulted from an Overview and Scrutiny Task Group which had looked into issues around access to the Redditch taxi fleet by people with disabilities.
The recommendations made by the Task Group had been accepted by Licensing Committee subject to a consultation exercise being carried out in relation to those recommendations that would result in changes to the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Driver Licensing Policy.
Through the consultation exercise it became apparent that there was significant opposition from the Redditch Taxi Association to the additional training requirements. Following further consideration of the issue by Licensing Committee at its meetings in March 2017 and July 2017, the decision to adopt changes as set out in the revised policy was made by Members in November 2017.
Following the adoption of the revised policy there was further feedback to Members from the licensed trade regarding the changes and concerns were expressed at the Taxi Forum in January 2018.
For this reason Members considered the matter again at their meeting on 5th March 2018 and officers were tasked to look at alternative ways to fund the disability awareness training and driving assessments and all options for targeting disability awareness training and driving assessments.
The SPL advised that with regard to funding, no other sources of funding had been found to cover the cost of the three yearly disability awareness training and driving assessments which is currently paid for by the drivers. With approximately 530 licensed drivers the cost was in the region of £30k over three years.
Officers had investigated whether there were any alternative providers for the training, but had concluded that the County Council Driver Training Team which provided the disability awareness training and driving assessments offered the lowest prices.
Officers had also investigated options for targeting additional training to drivers who had been the subject of repeated or serious complaints regarding their standard of driving or treatment of disabled persons. The SPL advised that Licensing Sub-Committee could if appropriate suspend a driver’s licence until additional training had been completed. This would be an approach that could be used to allow training to be targeted at specific drivers.
During the course of the debate Members discussed the option of relaxing the requirements for drivers to complete the disability awareness training and driving assessments once every three years. In doing so Members commented that the current requirements could be seen as onerous and that a better approach might be to have a system where training was targeted at drivers who had infringed the rules or been subject to complaints. It was noted that the vast majority of drivers in Redditch maintained very high standards. Members commented that the taxi drivers themselves met often and shared information and that through this type of networking there would be an element of the drivers themselves helping to maintain good standards.
The overall view of the Committee was that notwithstanding the previous imposition of the three year requirement, that looking at this issue afresh there were arguments in favour of this being relaxed and of a consultation exercise taking place. It was moved and seconded that a consultation should take place in relation to amending the revised policy to take out the requirement for drivers to undertake disability awareness training and driving assessments every three years.
During the course of the debate Members also discussed issues around licensed drivers from outside of Redditch being able to operate as either Hackney Carriage Drivers or Private Hire Drivers in the Borough. At the request of Members the SPL outlined the rules in this regard and in doing so clarified that:-
· Hackney Carriages, where they have been pre-booked, can work anywhere in the country, although they cannot ply for hire outside their area;
· Private Hire drivers can do jobs outside the area in which they are licenced; and
· It is not unlawful for a private hire operator to accept a booking in one area and pass it to an operator licensed by a different local authority to fulfill.
1. Members note the outcome of the officer investigations set out in the report.
2. Members note the requirements introduced in the Council’s Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Driver Licensing Policy in November 2017.
3. Officers be tasked to carry out a consultation exercise in relation to amending the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Driver Licensing Policy to remove the requirement that drivers undertake disability awareness training and driving assessments every three years.