(Director of Neighbourhoods) To consider the attached report.
(Director of Neighbourhoods) To consider the following revised recommendations alongside the previously published report:
(1) To note the issues and concerns raised by Harlow District Council; and
(2) To consider any implications arising from the decision to grant a licence to an applicant previously revoked by another licensing authority.
The Assistant Director of Neighbourhoods (Neighbourhood Services) presented a report highlighting a number of Licensing issues that had been recently raised by Harlow District Council.
The Assistant Director informed the Committee that Licensing Officers at Harlow District Council had reported an increased number of Hackney Carriage Vehicles and Drivers licensed by this Council working for a Harlow based Operator. This was causing some concern within the trade in Harlow and their Members were taking a keen interest in the matter. Officers had sought external legal advice, which had stated that a Harlow Operator could use a Hackney Carriage licensed by this Council to undertake pre-booked work in Harlow, provided that the Driver was licensed by the same authority that had licensed the vehicle. There was the possibility of the law being changed in respect of cross-border hiring, but until then there was not much that the Council could do about this.
The Assistant Director also reported that some Drivers licensed by this authority were removing their Hackney Carriage roof signs and replacing them with ‘Metro Cabs’ roof signs when driving in the Harlow area. This contravened the Council’s regulations and Officers had taken steps to address this issue. Licensing Officers in Harlow had also highlighted a recent case whereby a Driver had had his Licence revoked by Harlow District Council, but had been subsequently licensed by this Council and was now working for a taxi firm in Harlow again. This case perhaps emphasised the need for consistency as different authorities could have different rules.
In respect of the last issue raised by Harlow District Council, Cllr Jennings remembered the case. The issue was raised with the Driver during the Sub-Committee meeting, and he was asked why he hadn’t applied to Harlow District Council but he did not disclose that his application to Harlow District Council had been refused. Cllr Jennings felt that it would be helpful if previous applications to other local authorities were detailed on the application form. The Assistant Director did point out that the letter of revocation from Harlow District Council had been distributed via a pink supplementary agenda for that meeting. Cllr Dorrell also remembered the case and his application had been refused by Harlow District Council due to a discrepancy in his application, although the Driver had stated at the Sub-Committee meeting that he would work in the Epping Forest District not Harlow if his application was granted.
Cllr Sartin recalled that the case was highlighted in the local newspapers, and enquired as to whether the Council could check with other local authorities prior to an application being heard by a Sub-Committee. The Assistant Director stated that there was no reason why applications to this Council could not be cross checked with Harlow District Council. In this particular case, the decision had been made by the Sub-Committee on the basis of erroneous information given by the Applicant, and the Council had issued a press release afterwards stating that the decision had been made on its own merits.
The Assistant Director suggested that Sub-Committees could ask Applicants for details concerning any applications made to other local authorities during the meeting. The Council did carry out checks for criminal convictions on all applications received for Hackney Carriage or Private Hire Driver Licences; however, all other information considered for the application was based on what the Applicant included on his / her form. There was no central register kept of Hackney Carriage / Private Hire Driver applications made, and it was impractical for Licensing Officers to attempt to contact all local authorities in the United Kingdom whenever an application was received.
Cllr Keska enquired how Hackney Carriage and Private Hire vehicles could be identified as being licensed by this Council. The Assistant Director stated that vehicles licensed by this Council had to display a plate on the back of the vehicle and two small stickers on the inside of the rear passenger windows. Previously, a large sticker had to be displayed but this requirement was discontinued by the Committee a number of years ago; magnetic stickers were being stolen from the cars, and the taxi trade did not want permanent signs on the vehicles. Other Local Authorities insisted that the vehicles had to be a particular colour. Cllr Sartin enquired whether the Council logo could be incorporated on roof signs? The Assistant Director undertook to investigate this further and whether the stickers on the inside windows could be bigger, and report back to the next meeting of the Committee. The Assistant Director reminded the Committee that the purpose of any signs or stickers was to show that the vehicle was licensed by the Council.
(1) That the Hackney Carriage Licensing issues raised by Harlow District Council be noted;
(2) That Licensing Officers investigate the feasibility of including the Council logo on the roof signs of licensed vehicles and report to the Committee at its next meeting scheduled for 18 April 2018; and
(3) That Licensing Officers investigate the feasibility of increasing the size of the stickers on the inside of the rear passenger windows and report back to the Committee at its next meeting scheduled for 18 April 2018.