Agenda and draft minutes

Venue: The Oculus, Buckinghamshire Council, Gatehouse Road, HP19 8FF

Contact: Clare Gray 

Media

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Items
No. Item

1.

Apologies for absence

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Apologies had been received from Councillor J Baum, R Gaster, P Griffin, N Rana,

J Rush, N Southworth

2.

Appointment of Vice-Chairman

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Minutes:

The Chairman appointed Cllr Tony Green as her Vice-Chairman of the Licensing Committee for the ensuing year.

3.

Declarations of interest

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Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest.

4.

Minutes of the previous meeting pdf icon PDF 360 KB

To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting held on 14 April and 26 May 2021.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Minutes of the Meeting held on 14 April and 26 May 2021 were agreed as a correct record.

5.

Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Drivers: English language assessment pdf icon PDF 792 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report on the licensing service’s proposed arrangements to ensure that all licensed taxi and private hire drivers met the English language requirements stipulated in the Council’s new Taxi and Private Hire Licensing Policy which was adopted by the Council on 24 February 2021.

 

The two appendices referred to in the report were tabled; firstly information on the Versant English test and secondly an equalities impact assessment. A letter from the Licensed Private Hire Car Association was also tabled.

 

The Principal Licensing Officer (Aylesbury Vale area) highlighted that the principal reason for assessing drivers’ standard of English language skills was to ensure that they could converse effectively, particularly in emergency situations and where there were safeguarding concerns. In accordance with new national statutory, which focused on safeguarding passenger safety, all licensed taxi and private hire drivers were expected to possess proficient English language skills. Councils have a legal duty to have regard to these standards and it was expected that they were adopted unless there is compelling local reason not to; this included both oral and written English language skills.

 

During the Principal Licensing Officer presentation the following points were noted:-

 

·             the licensing requirements should be applied retrospectively to existing licence holders but a reasonable time should be allowed for this to be undertaken or gained. The implementation schedule of any changes that affect current licence holders must be transparent and communicated promptly and clearly.

·             The new Council policy would take effect from 6 September 2021. Existing drivers who have not previously taken this assessment would be required to take and pass it. From 12 months after the date of the implementation of the policy, if the driver has not passed the assessment criteria the Council was unlikely to renew their licence until they have done so.

·             The statutory standards did not specify a level of language proficiency.  It was clear from the standards that drivers were expected to be able to read and understand documents relating to safeguarding matters. 

·             The Common European Framework of Reference for languages (CEFR,) published by the Council of Europe, was an internationally recognised scheme that described language proficiency in terms of one of six levels. These six levels were outlined in the report.

·             The Councils current supplier, Pearson, have considerable experience delivering English language testing using the Versant system. They have recommended B1 to be a good level based on pass marks set by local authorities using the Versant system and taking a consistent approach.

·             Transport for London have set a pass mark of B1 on the CEFR. In addition the Home Office state that skilled worker visa applicants were required to demonstrate that they met level B1 on the CEFR.

·             Specifically taking into account the advice from Pearson and the approach of Transport for London and the Home Office, it was proposed that the pass criteria for English language testing for Buckinghamshire Council be set at B1 on the CEFR.  It was considered that this would set the proficiency level  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Hackney Carriage Fares pdf icon PDF 597 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee received a report on Hackney Carriage Fares. The new Buckinghamshire Council Taxi and Private Hire Licensing Policy was approved by Full Council on the 24th February 2021 on the recommendation of Licensing Committee and would be implemented from the 6th September 2021. The Policy removed the current legacy area hackney carriage zones thereby leaving one single operating zone. As a result it was now necessary to produce a single set of tariffs for drivers of hackney carriage vehicles in Buckinghamshire. The setting and approval of taxi tariffs was an executive, rather than a non-executive, function and therefore rested with Cabinet. This report was provided to the Committee for information purposes and to update the Committee on the progress that had been made to date in this area.

 

The Licensing Team Leader (Wycombe area) updated the Committee as follows:-

 

·             Once a tariff of fares had been set, the driver could not charge more to the passenger than the charge shown on the meter apart from in certain exceptional circumstances, such as where a journey ended outside of the council area and a fee had been agreed in advance.

·             There were no national guidelines or guidance for the setting of fares and each local authority used different methods and information in order to produce their local rates. However, it was accepted that any proposed tariff of fares should provide the driver with an acceptable income, whilst also providing an affordable transport option for the passenger(s).

·             Fares should be simple to understand, not able to be bypassed and set at a level which was competitive with the local private hire trade to avoid effectively pricing the taxi service out of the local market.

·             The Office for Fair Trading conducted a market study in 2003 which found that passengers were in a relatively weak position to compare offers and negotiate prices when hailing taxis or using their services at a rank. The report further stated that this finding reinforced the need for fare regulation of taxis and so it was considered to be good practice to set fares.

·             Given that tariffs in some of the legacy areas had not been reviewed for a number of years it was also considered inappropriate to use existing charges as a basis for producing a new set of fares.

·             Work had been carried out with a representative from Pulsar, who were one of the two main companies that carry out this work, and a set of proposed tariffs has been produced.

·             The proposed tariffs have been benchmarked both locally and nationally and compare favourably in both respects. The usual standard used for the benchmarking of tariffs was a two mile journey on Tariff 1 which was considered to be the most common journey on average. The national average cost for this journey, as calculated from the figures provided within Private Hire and Taxi Monthly publication which were regularly updated, was £6. The local average cost for this journey was currently calculated to be £5.93. The proposed  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Date of next meeting

22 July 2021 at 6.30pm - The Oculus, Buckinghamshire Council, Gatehouse Road, HP19 8FF

Additional documents:

Minutes:

22 July at the Oculus at 6.30pm.