The Executive is recommended to:
i. to pass a resolution that the provisions of Part II of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 (other than section 45) shall be adopted within the administrative area of North Yorkshire Council, with effect on the 1 April 2023, with the caveat of the decision only taking effect if the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy has been adopted for the 1 April 2023;
ii. Adopt the proposed Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policyas shown in Appendix 1, with or without amendments;
iii. if adopted, to authorise the approval of minor and inconsequential amendments to the policy from time-to-time by a senior officer to reflect legislative changes or correct any inaccuracies;
iv. if adopted to give approval for an Inclusive Service Plan (as outlined at paragraph 3.7) to be implemented within 18 months of adoption.
Considered – A report of the Corporate Director for Business & Environmental Services seeking adoption of the proposed Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy, taking into consideration the responses to the consultation and the recommendations from the Licensing Members Working Group at its meeting of 24 January 2023. The report also sought approval:
a) To remove the existing licensing hackney carriage zones to create a new single zone for the North Yorkshire Council;
b) For a senior officer to make minor and inconsequential amendments to the policy (if adopted) to reflect legislative changes or correct any inaccuracies;
c) To develop and maintain an Inclusive Service Plan (ISP) within 18 months of policy adoption.
County Councillor Derek Bastiman introduced the report and thanked the LGR Licensing Members Working Group and supporting officers for their work on the drafting the Policy under consideration. He drew specific attention to paragraph 4.7 of the report detailing the Council’s commitment to improving accessibility, and the proposal to develop and maintain an Inclusive Service Plan (ISP) within 18 months of the proposed Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy being adopted, ideally forming part of the Council’s overarching Local Transport Plan. He went on the welcome the contributions from members of the public who had made submission as part of the County Council public participation scheme.
It was noted four public submissions had been received. The first three submissions were from representatives of the Disability Forum. All three were unable to attend in person, and therefore their statements were read out on their behalf, as follows:
i) Mr Nick Moxon – Chairman of North Yorkshire Disability Forum
“The North Yorkshire Disability Forum agree that a mixed fleet of taxis is required for the first 5-year Policy but then to be reviewed. Please understand, anyone can use a wheelchair accessible taxi, but permanent wheelchair users cannot use a normal taxi. Quite simply, with almost 100 licensing authorities nationally having 100% of their taxis as being accessible, they provide clear evidence that it works.
I emphatically disagree with the Director’s recent statement to me that “high steps and large floor areas of traditional wheelchair accessible vehicles can constrain” the access of ambulant disabled people. This is factually incorrect and misleading as most wheelchair accessible cars (but not London Black cabs) are normal cars that are converted to take wheelchairs, prior to being supplied by Motability to wheelchair users. However, the statement is correct for the large Mercedes Vito type WAVs but these are not what most licensing authorities licence as taxis. We have information from one city with over 1250 accessible taxis where 9 different makes of wheelchair taxis are in use, in other words a mixed fleet of taxis. Ford Tourneo’s, Citroen Berlingo’s, Fiat Doblo’s and VW Caddy’s are typically found operating on taxi ranks within Yorkshire and across the country. Many families buy these models for everyday use because everyone, except a wheelchair user, can get in and out of them easily.
The suggestion that one zone, rather than 7, will enable wheelchair users to find taxis on ranks in future lacks any credible evidence. Government Data for 2020 shows that 91% of all taxi journeys nationally were less than 10 miles. Please think of the principal towns in all 7 Borough Councils, then look up the distances between them all. Almost all exceed 20 miles. Where is the evidence to support the confidence that one zone will deliver improvements? At the moment a wheelchair user arriving in Whitby cannot find a taxi on the rank or by phoning for one on the List. Will a taxi drive from, say Malton in Ryedale council’s zone, to take the customer 2 or 3 miles uphill to their hotel on the West Cliff in Whitby? If Malton’s only wheelchair taxi is fortuitously on the rank in Whitby, there will not be a wheelchair taxi at the station rank in Malton. Incidentally the wheelchair taxi at Malton station is only available on weekdays but not weekends.
We ask that the Executive does not sign off the 5-year Policy for 6 months. In that time, we believe that the authority can look at the issue of the suitability of wheelchair accessible vehicles regarding access for all and find ways that will result in more accessible taxis being licensed each year of this 5-year Policy. The forum is very willing to assist as evidenced by the request made, in writing, by the Accessible Transport group in July last year to co-produce the Policy, with the authors of the Policy, but our request was refused.”
In response, Karl Battersby, Corporate Director for Business & Environmental Services drew attention toguidance published by DPTAC in August 2020:
“For a significant number of disabled people, [WAVs] are difficult to use, particularly those using artificial limbs and others with restricted mobility. Creating the space for the wheelchair frequently means that there is a gap between the door and seat, which some people find difficult to negotiate”.
He confirmed the extract had been taken from the DfT’s Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing Best Practice Guidance (2022 Consultation Document):
“For some passengers, particularly ambulant disabled people whose ability to walk is impaired, the high steps and large floor areas of traditional WAVs can constrain their access.” – see: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/taxi-and-private-hire-vehicle-best-practice-guidance
He noted the DPTAC and the DfT were therefore satisfied that an entire fleet of WAVs would be unlikely to meet the needs of all users. He drew attention to the consultation responses from the trade which provided feedback relating to difficulties experienced by some passengers accessing WAVs. Officers note the support of a mixed fleet.
He confirmed officers had not only assessed the impact of the WAV policies so far in Harrogate, Scarborough and Richmondshire since implementation, but also the likely impact of such a policy in the future. A premium had been placed on plates attached to existing non-wheelchair accessible vehicles and the number of WAVs had not increased, which suggested that new entrants to the trade were not encouraged to license WAVs and, instead, were opting to purchase plates from existing proprietors. This was consistent with the experiences of many authorities with similar policies throughout England and Wales and therefore it was reasonable to expect the current trends to continue.
Karl Battersby confirmed officers are committed to taking appropriate measures to increase the number of WAVs by other, more effective means, and would review the relevant policy provisions when the authority considers the outcome of the Inclusive Service Plan within 18 months.
He suggested the proposal to abolish any hackney carriage zones would allow drivers to operate across existing borders, which was currently not permitted, concluding that the trade and the public might benefit from such an approach. Finally, he confirmed no conclusions had been drawn in relation to the frequency of such a benefit but the intention was to remove barriers that currently existed.
ii) Mr Ian Lawson - Mickleby Lodge, The Lane, Mickleby, Saltburn TS13 5LT
“The Equality Impact Assessment, linked to the draft Policy states, in section1, that the new authority’s key priority is to improve accessibility for disabled people. Her Majesty’s Government published best practice guidance in 2010 stated that “it is important that a disabled person can hire a taxi on the spot (rank) with the minimum delay or inconvenience and having accessible taxis available helps to make that possible”.
Trans Pennine Express and Northern Rail manage stations and operate trains across North Yorkshire, with Trans Pennine advertising taxis, onboard on their information screens, prior to their trains arriving at stations along the route. At Thirsk the only wheelchair taxi has to come from Easingwold, making the fare very expensive. At Northallerton there is one, but it has to be prebooked. At Yarm the 3 firms promoted by Trans Pennine tell me that they do not possess a wheelchair taxi. On the Middlesbrough to Whitby line 13 stations in the Esk Valley, after Great Ayton, have no accessible taxi service at all as the only taxi on Scarborough’s Designated list of accessible taxis is routinely unavailable.
Whitby DAG have provided a list of complaints over 6 months to the Director Mr. Karl Battersby from both residents and visitors who have been unable to find or book a wheelchair taxi. So, at the train stations mentioned no wheelchair taxis are to be found on their ranks at all and prebooking one is difficult or impossible. Clearly wheelchair users are unlikely to travel being unsure of reaching their destination. Nichola Emmerson’s statement outlines how difficult it is to obtain a wheelchair taxi at Starbeck, Knaresborough and Harrogate being the stations served by Northern Rail. Buses are not an acceptable alternative to a wheelchair taxi as many, many rural bus stops are not suitable or safe for a wheelchair user to get on or off a bus. As this authority states that its key priority is to improve accessibility for disabled people, please explain to me what in the proposed Policy demonstrates that the Policy will improve accessibility for wheelchair users, both in the short term and longer term? Accessible taxis are needed, not Private Hire Vehicles, as this authority controls the fares for taxis but not for PHVs.”
In response, Karl Battersby confirmed officers were aware of the need to increase the number of WAVs and were satisfied that the way to achieve results in this regard was not by implementing the provisions of existing policies with little expectation of an improvement. He noted they were therefore committed to taking appropriate measures to increase the number of WAVs by other, more effective means, and that it was hoped that the outcome of the proposed Inclusive Service Plan would inform the authority in this regard within 18 months.
Barry Khan, Assistant Chief Executive confirmed Mr Lawson had also sought legal advice and as a result a second submission had been received from his legal representative. His second submission focussed on reasons why it was believed the EIA was flawed,as detailed in (a) to (i) below:
(a) It does not draw attention to each limb of the duty – in particular, the opportunity to use the new policy to promote equality of opportunity for wheelchair users by requiring all new hackney carriages to be WAVs is not explored, nor is the reason for this approach not being adopted, as it is in 4 other authorities, not explained.
In response Karl Battersby confirmed:
· In accordance with s149 of the Equality Act 2010, NYC must, in the exercise of its functions have due regard to the need to:
o eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Act;
o advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it;
o foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.
· The PSED had been engaged and considered throughout the process of developing a draft policy for the new North Yorkshire Council. It informed the draft policy in the proposals for the relaxation of age limits pertaining to WAVs, the driver’s duties to carry disabled persons, prohibitions on overcharging, likely disciplinary action in the event of a breach and the requirement to undertake disability awareness training in order to promote compliance and understanding. This reflected best practice as set out by the Department of Transport (“DfT”), Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing, Best Practice Guidance for Licensing Authorities in England (2022 – consultation version) (“the DfT Best Practice Guidance for Licensing Authorities 2022”).
· The Courts had recognised that the mere recitation of the statutory formula was no substitute for the required assessment of the PSED; the duty was one of substance, not form, the real issue was whether a public authority had, in substance, had regard to the relevant matters, having regard to the substance of the matter (see Hotak v Southwark  UKSC 30). The substance of the matter in the present circumstances was the need to adopt a new taxi & private hire licensing policy for the new North Yorkshire Council. This policy included the relaxation of age limits pertaining to WAVs, the driver’s duties to carry disabled persons, prohibitions on overcharging, likely disciplinary action in the event of a breach and the requirement to undertake disability awareness training in order to promote compliance and understanding.
· An EIA facilitated compliance with the PSED, but the EIA sat within a wider evidence base. There had been two EIAs, the first (dated 15.08.22) submitted with the Report of the 18th October 2022 which attached the draft policy for consultation, and a subsequent EIA (dated 20.01.23) which was attached to the Report for the 7th February 2023.
· The latest EIA recognised the concerns of the North Yorkshire Disability Forum. The latest EIA was informed by the consultation responses and consideration thereof. The NYC recognised that the PSED was an ongoing duty therefore as part of its decision on the draft policy the Executive was being asked to approve a recommendation that an Inclusive Service Plan be created to look thoroughly into this area within 18 months. As part of that work the Council would seek that a survey be carried out by an external Transport Consultancy to provide the Council with a true picture of the provision and requirement for wheelchair accessible transport across the whole of the North Yorkshire Council area. Work could then be looked at how to improve the fleet accordingly.
· An ISP was commended as good practice by the DfT Best Practice Guidance for Licensing Authorities 2022” (paras 4.17 – 4.21).
· It was clear from the consultation responses that further information was required. The acquisition of further information and evidence, the review of existing policies and further consultation was part of the ongoing PSED and also good practice (see DfT Best Practice Guidance for Licensing Authorities 2022, para 8.64)
· In the current circumstances to have no single policy for the NYC or to retain multiple taxi zones was contrary to good practice (see DfT Best Practice Guidance for Licensing Authorities 2022, para 12.2).
(b) It is factually incorrect. It states that Selby is the only authority which currently requires new hackney carriages to be WAV. That is inaccurate, as it is four out of the 7 that require such a policy (Selby, Harrogate, Richmondshire and Scarborough).
In response Karl Battersby confirmed the EIA (20.01.23) stated: “Selby District Council was the only authority of the Seven that requires all new and replacement hackney carriage vehicles to be wheelchair accessible.” Admittedly, the EIA did not explain the position in Harrogate, Richmondshire and Scarborough but their policies do differ from that of Selby. This was explained in further detail in the officer comments (Appendix 5) as follows:
“Selby District Council is the only authority of the seven that requires all new and replacement hackney carriage vehicles to be wheelchair accessible. Harrogate, Scarborough and Richmondshire each have a policy requiring new hackney carriage vehicles to be wheelchair accessible, but this requirement does not apply to the replacement of non-WAVs. Accordingly, there has been no noteworthy increase in the number of WAVs in any of these areas”
(c) The removal of the requirement for new hackney carriages to be WAVs from 4 out of the 7 authorities has significant implications for the wheelchair users in those areas. The policies are in their infancy. There is no analysis of their impact so far, and in light of the reduced accessibility of WAV as evidenced in the parliamentary briefing this is clearly a retrograde step. No attention has been called to this in the EqIA (nor is it addressed in the policy itself, which is also factually inaccurate, referring as it does only to Selby as having the policy requirement of new WAV); there is no explanation of the reasoning for removing rather than adopting this policy; nor an examination of the impact and/or mitigation of same.
In response Karl Battersby confirmed
· The impact of the existing policies has been considered in the officer comments (Appendix 5) as follows: “Recent history in Harrogate, Scarborough and Richmondshire indicates that imposing mandatory wheelchair accessible requirements on new vehicles would be unlikely to lead to a noteworthy increase in the number of WAVs. Instead, it would be likely to place a premium on plates attached to vehicles licensed prior to 1st April 2023 and limit the number of new entrants to the market due to the additional financial outlay required. On that basis, any negligible benefits to wheelchair users are likely to be outweighed by negative impacts. Imposing a limit on non-WAVs would primarily only serve to benefit existing licence holders and not the public”.
· In response Karl Battersby confirmed reasonable conclusions had been drawn not only in relation to the impact of the policies in Harrogate, Scarborough and Richmondshire since implementation, but also in relation to the likely impact of such a policy in future. A premium had been placed on plates attached to existing non-wheelchair accessible vehicles and the number of WAVs had not increased. This would suggest that new entrants to the trade were not encouraged to license WAVs and, instead, opted to purchase plates from existing proprietors. This was consistent with the experiences of many authorities with similar policies throughout England and Wales and therefore it was entirely reasonable to expect the current trends to continue.
· In order to adopt a single policy throughout North Yorkshire, the new authority was required to balance the cost of every licensing requirement against the benefit to the public. In this case, there was no evidence to support any suggestion that the policies in Harrogate, Scarborough and Richmondshire were having, or would have, a positive impact on the number of WAVs.
· Officers in this instance had considered the need to increase the number of WAVs and reasonably concluded that the way to achieve results in this regard was not by implementing the provisions of the existing policies with little expectation of an improvement. The authority had however, committed to formulating an Inclusive Service Plan to consider its options in this regard.
(d) Any community engagement – and in respect of disability, this appears to have been carried out at one online meeting with only one disability organisation – will have been based on flawed information as set out above, and so will not have been effective.
In response Karl Battersby confirmed
· An extensive consultation exercise was carried out with a wide range of stakeholders (including disability groups) with links to the policy and survey. The survey specifically invited comments on the proposal not to require all licensed vehicles to be wheelchair accessible. The consultation was open for 12 weeks and included the reasons for the policy proposals. A meeting was held on request by the North Yorkshire Disability Group. The concerns of the NYDG had been incorporated into the EIA (20.01.23) which would also inform the proposed ISP.
· The consultation responses matched the concerns highlighted at paragraph 4.6 of the DfT Best Practice Guidance for Licensing Authorities 2022 which further supported the commendation for an ISP.
(e) There is no attempt to consider the numbers of disabled users affected by the new policy and in particular the removal of the requirement from 4 authorities that new applications be with new WAVs. As indicated above by the caselaw, it is important for the authority to base its decision on relevant information and this should be gathered as part of the assessment of impact – not simply as a means of mitigating the adverse effects of a policy which, in this case, is going to result in the removal of a positive policy for wheelchair users without any apparent rationale having been put forward nor the relevant information being before the decision makers.
In response Karl Battersby confirmed:
· The policy did not represent a removal of existing requirements but, rather, the introduction of a new set of requirements for an entirely new authority. The multiplicity of zones was contrary to good practice (see DfT Best Practice Guidance for Licensing Authorities 2022, para 12.2 and the Risk Assessment on multiple zoning attached to the report.
· If no unified policy was implemented, proprietors would be entitled to make a new application to the new authority and, where a conflict existed between current district policies, only the least restrictive requirement could be enforced. This could lead to an absurdity whereby an application could be made to one office and the new authority would be under an obligation to determine it contrary to existing policies in other areas.
· The alternative approach would be to retain hackney carriage zones with inconsistent vehicle specifications, pre-application requirements, fares and fees in each zone. This was considered to be a significant risk to the new authority, the licensed trade and the general public. In any case, as hackney carriage zones could apply to private hire drivers, vehicles and operators, any conflict in those areas could not be addressed by zoning arrangements.
· Once the decision was made to consult on a unified policy, all proposals were subject to the Public Sector Equality Duty. The conclusions drawn in relation to the effectiveness of a WAV policy (like the ones in Harrogate, Richmondshire and Scarborough) were reasonable, based on past experiences in North Yorkshire and beyond. Any such policy would be highly unlikely to increase the number of WAVs and therefore the impact would not be dependent on the number of wheelchair users in the area. If there was a shortage of WAVs in North Yorkshire, it would not be exacerbated by the new policy. However, the authority was committed to taking appropriate measures to increase the number of WAVs. Any information relating to the number of wheelchair users in the area would be extremely relevant when the authority considered its options with a view to increasing the number of WAVs by other, more effective means. It was hoped that the outcome of the proposed Inclusive Service Plan would inform the authority in this regard.
(f) It is not only factually incorrect but misleading. The assessment stages at p.4 of 10 (p.328) of council papers that “the only way to ensure that a wheelchair accessible vehicle is available at a taxi rank is to mandate that all hackney carriage vehicles must be wheelchair accessible”. It then goes on to quote from DfTs Taxi and Private Hire Licensing Draft (and it is notable that this is Draft) best practice Guidance as guiding against this (i.e., against all vehicles being WAVs) and stating instead that there is a demand for a mixed fleet. The EqIA makes no mention of the fact that there are such existing policies in local authorities; and that the proposed policy would remove those; nor does it explain why those policies were initially introduced and what it is now that has changed such that they are no longer considered appropriate. There was every opportunity to address this issue, but such opportunity has not been taken.
In response Karl Battersby confirmed:
· The EIA did not explain the position in Harrogate, Richmondshire and Scarborough. However, it was explained in the officer comments (Appendix 5). The authority could demonstrate that the relevant, factual information had been considered.
· It was worth noting that the new authority did not adopt any of the existing policies – either to mandate the use of WAVs (as in Selby), to cap the number of non-WAVs (as in Harrogate, Richmondshire and Scarborough) or to impose no mandatory WAV restrictions (as in Craven, Hambleton and Ryedale). Decisions in this regard have been made by the predecessor authorities.
(g) The reasoning given for not mandating WAVs is given as reluctance to purchase higher value wheelchair accessible vehicles (which would presumably be offset by the longer period for which they may be licensed, as included in the policy); the lack of requirement on the taxi ranks (when research readily available indicates that disabled people do not have confidence in travelling because of the scarcity of accessible transport) ; and because of the additional time required to load a person in a wheelchair – the latter will only be overcome if all drivers are mandated to have WAV.
In response Karl Battersby confirmed:
· There was a reluctance to purchase higher value WAVs and the reasons given were confirmed in some of the consultation responses. It was immaterial if those reasons were justified because the reluctance remains regardless of any contrary argument.
· Among the measures that the new authority could take to increase the supply of WAVs would be to explain the benefits and to reduce the reluctance to purchase WAVs. This was in keeping with good practice (see DfT Best Practice Guidance for Licensing Authorities 2022, paras 4.8, 4.13 and 8.65).
(h) There is no evidence in the EqIA for the statement that “wheelchair accessible vehicles from one area in North Yorkshire will travel to another area of the Council e.g. for school runs, hospital drop offs. It is on these occasions that the driver may choose to go to the nearest hackney carriage rank and pick up further work to avoid dead milage back”. There is nothing to suggest that the author has carried out any focus group work, for example, with the owners and/or operators of existing WAV to ascertain whether when in receipt of such work they are likely to be free to go to a rank and/or whether this is work that they would undertake. It is particularly lacking in credibility when Government Data for 2020 shows that 91% of all taxi journeys nationally were less than 10 miles (see Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Statistics: 2022 at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/taxi-and-private-hire-vehicle-statistics-england-2022/taxi-and-private-hire-vehicle-statistics-england-2022#:~:text=In%202020%2C%2091%25%20of%20taxi,be%20longer%20than%2010%20miles).
In response Karl Battersby confirmed this element of the EIA focused on the ability of drivers to operate across existing borders, which was not currently permitted. It was entirely reasonable to conclude that the trade and the public might benefit from such an approach. No conclusions had been drawn in relation to the frequency of such a benefit. The intention was to remove barriers that currently existed which was to be further explored within the ISP.
(i) The ISP (Inclusive Service Plan) proposed is in essence the information that should have been gathered for the purposes of any equality impact assessment. The bald statement in the EqIA that “prior to consultation there was no data describing demand and demographic characteristics of users” is insufficient to meet the duty: those developing the policy had an obligation to conduct such research as they could and to obtain information from potential consultees as to the relevant demographics in order to carry out a valid consultation.
In response Karl Battersby confirmed the authority had had regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance opportunity and foster good relations. In considering those matters, it had committed to formulating an Inclusive Service Plan. The authority would once again have regard to those matters when it considered the outcome of the ISP. The equality duty applied at every stage and the promise of further consideration of wheelchair accessible services adequately demonstrated that the authority had had regard to its duties to this point.
iii) Ms Nichola Emmerson – (member of NY Disability Forum)
“I am a disabled powered wheelchair user now living in Harrogate with my disabled husband following a recent move from West Tanfield. We decided to move as we were living in an isolated village so assumed that living in town would make life so much easier. While we can access local shops more easily, I am relying much more on public transport as my declining health means that driving is almost a thing of the past. My husband and I are in our 30's and enjoy socialising in town with our friends as well as attending concerts and events in Harrogate, York and further afield. The increasing number of hospital appointments that I have had recently has made me realise how badly served Harrogate is with wheelchair accessible taxis. Frequently, I try and ring for an accessible taxi but cannot obtain one. When my Motability car was in for repair, I had a hospital appointment in Harrogate but could not book a taxi, so Motability offered to obtain one for me. They struggled to obtain one, but when they did it came from Bingley 20 miles away. Fortunately, Motability paid for the taxi as I simply could not have done so.
Why is the proposed Taxi Policy not requiring an increase in the number of wheelchair accessible taxis available in North Yorkshire for disabled people like me? Why is it possible for an able bodied person to obtain a taxi on the ranks in Harrogate or by telephoning for one but I, a wheelchair user, cannot - it’s also impossible to pre book.
These bad experiences have often left me feeling isolated and the impact on my mental health has at times been significant, as I’m a very outgoing person who likes to spend time with my friends.
I really hope that all the points that I have raised will be discussed and have a positive impact on the final Policy.
North Yorkshire is definitely lagging behind on this issue. It’s time to level up and lead from the front and have more inclusion for people with disabilities within North Yorkshire.”
In response Karl Battersby confirmed officers were aware of the need to increase the number of WAVs and that the evidence suggested the existing policies are not adequately achieving results in that regard. Officers intended to review the relevant policy provisions when the authority considered the outcome of the Inclusive Service Plan within 18 months.
Mr Richard Fieldman of 28 Timble Grove Harrogate HG1 2BJ, attended the meeting to present his submission as follows:
“The vast majority, if not all, hackney carriage trade are totally against the proposals to create a one zone authority for the purpose of taxi trading, as this will lead to certain livelier areas being swamped at peak times, leaving the quieter rural areas with little or no supply at all, leaving residents in those areas vulnerable in getting home safely.
We are also opposed to not limiting the numbers of hackney licence plates, as this will see a demise in the private hire licensed vehicles, and WAV vehicles covering transport for the disabled. The benefit to the aforementioned is that the private hire vehicles would no longer need an operator’s license, saving them a minimum of £132 per year, they would also be able to operate like a taxi, in being flagged down in the street, able to sit on a taxi rank. In Harrogate we currently have 148 taxis and around 450 private hire vehicles, if the private hire vehicles convert to hackney licenses for the reasons just described, that would put a massive burden on the already inadequate space on existing taxi ranks, forcing vehicles onto the streets, illegally parking, and causing congestion around towns and cities, touting for business, a scene we do not want to see in North Yorkshires beautiful county.
As far as WAV are concerned, we have held many meetings lately, since this proposal became public, and all of our WAV owners have said they will immediately get rid of their vehicles overnight, and simply acquire a license plate for a normal saloon car, because of the expense entailed in a WAV, and the loss of income and time, loading and unloading a disabled person in a wheelchair, for which they are not allowed to charge any extra for. This will deplete the council’s quota of WAV supply for the disabled.
I have personally attended two meetings now, with Councillors Les, and Bastiman, and on both occasions I have been told that the results of the consultation would determine the policy going forward, well, this is clearly not the case, as the consultation showed a result of 52% against this policy, which has left the trade highly disappointed that the result is clearly being ignored.
An additional item in the rules on compliance testing has been added, which was not in the consultation, and that is, vehicles over seven years old must be tested three times a year, that is a test every four months. Legally the council only has the ability to ask that a vehicle is tested at maximum, three times in a twelve month period, this rule could fall foul of being illegal if a vehicle/vehicles are due to be tested in December, that would mean that at re-licensing of said vehicles, with a test every four months, those vehicles would have been tested four times, which is illegal.
I ask you all today, as responsible councillors, as lovers of North Yorkshire, to respect the results of the consultation, and vote against this policy.”
In response Karl Battersby confirmed the consultation response data did not support the suggestion that the vast majority of the hackney carriage trade was against the proposals to create one zone. He went to suggest:
· The retention of hackney carriage zones and seven conflicting licensing policies would be likely to pose a significant risk to the new authority, the licensed trade and the general public. Due to the current inconsistencies throughout North Yorkshire, it might also leave the new authority with an obligation to determine applications contrary to some of the existing policies of predecessor authorities. In any case, as hackney carriage zones could apply to private hire drivers, vehicles and operators, any conflict in those areas could not be addressed by zoning arrangements.
· According to the Competition and Markets Authority (regulation of taxis and private hire vehicles: understanding the impact of competition) ‘Quantity restrictions are not necessary to ensure the safety of passengers, or to ensure that fares are reasonable. However, they can harm passengers by reducing availability, increasing waiting times, and reducing the scope for downward competitive pressure on fares’
· Most local licensing authorities did not impose quantity restrictions and the Department for Transport regarded that as best practice.
· Recommendations made by the Members’ Working Group with regards to the frequency of vehicle testing were considered in the report.
County Councillor Tim Grogan, as a member of the Member Working Group also spoke on the report and urged the Executive to recommend the Policy as proposed by the Working Group, and not that which had been presented by officers. He drew attention to the significant experience within the Member Working Group and to the Working Group’s views on increasing the age limit to 15-years; cross-border activities; enforcement; testing and Executive Vehicles.
County Councillor Carl Les confirmed an email had been received from County Councillor Andrew Lee which also reflected the views expressed by County Councillor Tim Grogan. Given it similarity, he chose not to have it read out.
In light of the views expressed by Working Group members, County Councillor Derek Bastiman proposed that the item be deferred to allow time for a further meeting of the Working Group, so that legal advice regarding age limits etc, and a revised EIA could be considered.
Given the difference of opinion between officers and members of the Working Group, it was
Resolved – That a decision on the item be deferred to the coming Executive meeting scheduled for 21 February 2023