The Committee received a report which set out the actions taken by the Council’s Licensing Service in response to the Department for Transport’s Statutory Taxi & Private Hire Vehicle Standards.
In accordance with the Policing and Crime Act 2017, the Department for Transport published new standards for taxi and private hire vehicles in July 2020 with the aim of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults from abuse and exploitation. Councils must have regard to these new standards and it was expected that they were to be adopted unless there was compelling local reason not to.
The publication of the new standards coincides with the preparation of the new Buckinghamshire Council Taxi and Private Hire Licensing Policy. The majority of the recommended standards had been included in the draft copy of the Policy which had been subject to recent consultation. A separate report was due to be presented to the Licensing Committee with results of the Policy consultation.
This report had been prepared in respect of the Secretary of State’s expectation that licensing authorities publish their response to the standards, with details of the policies and plans to deliver the recommended measures. A summary of each recommended standard was provided in the report, together with an indication whether the standard would be adopted and how the Licensing Service plans to ensure the standard would be met. The content of the report was without prejudice to the final decision in respect of the new Policy and it was acknowledged that measures might need to be revised should alternative policy decisions be made.
Members were invited to ask questions of officers. In response to a query regarding how the informed consent of the booker of a PSV vehicle was recorded, officers advised that the operating conditions set out comprehensive requirements in terms of operator record keeping. Officers agreed to double check the wording of the requirement in the operating conditions.
Following a concern raised regarding the proposal, as set out 2.42 of the report, to slightly reduce the test pass mark of the English language assessment currently used by Aylesbury Vale, the Committee were assured that the safeguarding objectives would still be achieved with the slight reduction in the pass mark. It was noted that it was anticipated that with the additional training and slight reduction in test pass mark that the pass rate of existing drivers would be 75%. Officers advised that if the Policy was adopted, a further report would be presented to the Committee at a later date with more detailed information on the pass mark level. In response to a question regarding what the procedure would be for those drivers who were unsuccessful in passing their English Language test, officers explained that those drivers would be directed to additional sources of support to help improve their English language skills. They would also have the opportunity to take further tests for which an additional cost would be incurred.
In response to a question regarding how the identity of a driver undertaking an English language assessment via the use of an automated telephone system would be confirmed, officers advised that there would be visual confirmation of the driver to ensure their identity.
With regards to basic DBS disclosures, the Committee were advised that the Policy requires operators to require basic DBS disclosures from any new member of staff and confirm that they comply with their own Policy for Employing Ex-Offenders. Furthermore, operators were required to ensure that staff produce a new basic disclosure from the DBS on an annual basis.
It was confirmed that a report on the proposed new fee levels would be presented to the Licensing Committee following the approval of the Buckinghamshire Council Taxi and Private Hire Licensing Policy.
Resolved that the report be noted.
Councillor Dominic Barnes joined the meeting at 18.56pm