- Meeting of Environment and Living Scrutiny Committee, Tuesday 19th December 2017 6.30 pm (Item 2.)
To consider the attached report.
Contact Officer: Peter Seal (01296) 585083
The Committee received a report which proposed a review of taxi and private hire fees and charges. This report came to Committee ahead of the Licensing Committee meeting in January 2018 whose membership would consult and implement the changes. It was explained that the item had come to Committee as the first stage of a consultation process and Member feedback would be appreciated to ensure additional governance.
Taxi and private hire license fees and charges had not been formally reviewed by AVDC for a number of years. Taxi licensing had been subject to a number of technological changes over the past two years in addition to changes in legislation and various initiatives brought in by Licensing Committee. AVDC was not allowed to make a profit from license fees and was obliged to carry forward any surplus or deficit to any future review of fees. LGA guidance was available via this link which aimed to provide Local Authorities with a breadth of considerations when assessing license fees. The LGA believed that regulatory services were at the heart of councils’ economic growth and accounted to 50% of business’ contact with the council. This guidance did not take into account specific statutory restrictions applicable to taxi and private hire fees so not all the costs listed were in the proposed fee structure.
The most significant change in fees were seen in the areas of hackney carriage and private hire driver licenses where the cost of a new three year license had risen from £156 to £193. This was due to the increased resource requirements imposed on local authorities by the Deregulation Act 2015 which enabled applicants from outside the Vale to apply for a driver license from AVDC. AVDC carried out a series of checks on all license applicants to determine whether they were fit and proper to drive and ensure they did not pose an unacceptable risk to the safety of the travelling public. These checks cost the authority staff resource and money in order to carry out.
It was proposed that hackney carriage vehicle and private hire vehicle license fees were reduced with new hackney carriage vehicle licence applications from £372 to £300 and new private hire vehicle licence applications from £342 to £307. This was due to the benefits of new digital technology which managed the bookings and issuing of licenses which had consequently reduced the necessary resource required for this service delivery. The fees themselves had originated from the cost of providing the service and took into account staff time as well as time for the administration of Licensing Committee meetings. The service could not make a profit but did not need to operate at a loss. The fees would be reviewed periodically to ensure they were correctly priced.
Members sought more information and were advised:-
i. Market testing had been undertaken and it had been found that the closest Local Authorities had fees similar to the proposed fee changes.
ii. It was not expected, and indeed unlawful, that Local Authorities would compete for the service by reducing fees to obtain business.
iii. Aylesbury Vale’s license service had been popular due to its efficiency and online booking.
iv. Licenses obtained from other Authorities were eligible to be used in Aylesbury Vale and vice versa due to changes introduced by the deregulation act.
v. Changes in legislation related to deregulation were expected in future due to the impact providers, such as Uber, had had on the market and the scourge of child sexual exploitation.
vi. A DBS check was a Disclosure and Barring Service check which was to help ensure that drivers were suitable to work with the public.
vii. In early 2018 there would be the implementation of an enhanced test on all vehicles which would assess, amongst other factors, scratches, dents, upholstery and first aid provisions. Failures would lead to a pending suspension to ensure sufficient time for repairs and arrangements to be undertaken ahead of a re-test. Time measuring of this compliance would be assessed in due course but had already been taken into account in the fee calculation.
viii. The taxi trade would be able to respond once assessed and approved by the Licensing Committee. After approval, there would be 28 days for comments and representation.
ix. An external supplier provided the knowledge test and upon completion the applicant would receive a certificate which would be submitted to AVDC as part of the license application. Quality checks would be sporadically undertaken to ensure that the test met the expected standards of the license service.
x. There was an online system for residents to make complaints of a minor nature about drivers, such as cutting up traffic or horn sounding. This allowed for driver trends to be monitored. More serious complaints required investigation by Officers in order for further action to be undertaken.
That Members agreed the fees and charges ahead of the Licensing Committee meeting in January 2018.