Issue - decisions

Hackney Carriage Zones

19/10/2023 - Hackney Carriage Zones

Considered – a report of the Corporate Director for Environment seeking confirmation of the Council’s position on abolishing the seven predecessor authority hackney carriage zones and operating a single hackney carriage zone for North Yorkshire.


Mr Richard Fieldman read out his public participation submission as follows:


I speak on behalf of 70 members of the hackney carriage trade from across North Yorkshire.  Although we are opposed to the Council abolishing the seven legacy hackney carriage zones, if that were the Council’s intention, there is a straightforward statutory process a council must follow.


North Yorkshire Council failed to follow that process. Astonishingly, it appears not a single licensing officer or lawyer from any of the eight former local authorities were aware of the statutory requirements.


The Council now dances on a pinhead in an attempt to avoid openly admitting its mistake.  Rather than honestly and openly accept it did not abolish the hackney carriage zones, it attempts to rely on the legal maxim of ‘presumptive regularity’.  That simply means that, if the Council passed a resolution to abolish hackney carriage zones, it is to be accepted it did so, unless overturned by the courts, even though it did not comply with the statutory requirements and admits it did not do so.


But no such resolution was ever passed. There is no resolution to rely on. There is no basis on which the Council can rely on presumptive regularity.  As a result, despite officer assertions to the contrary, the seven legacy hackney carriage zones legally remain to this day.


Officers ask you to pass a resolution today to regularise the position, to correct their procedural mistakes, but can you do so?  In a word, “no”, because passing a resolution to abolish hackney carriage zones is a function reserved to the Full Council or, more precisely, it is not a function that is an executive function or one that can be exercised by the Executive.


In the circumstances, on behalf of myself and those on whose behalf I speak, I ask you not to compound an already bad position by passing an illegal resolution, but to instead refer this matter to the Full Council for a full and proper consideration of the proposal to abolish the hackney carriage zones.


If a council passes a resolution to abolish hackney carriage zones it cannot be reversed –

this is a one-way street, down which you can only go once. If you refer this matter to Full Council, and the Council then follows the statutory process, and Full Council passes the appropriate resolution, we trust the Council will then recognise all hackney carriages as North Yorkshire hackney carriages by removing the zonal markings; and applying the same rules to all hackney carriages and their drivers, irrespective of which former district council by which they were previously licensed.


So, in all the circumstances, I ask you not to pass the resolution officers ask you to pass, and to instead refer this matter to Full Council. If you have any questions, I will be pleased to attempt to answer them, but like you, we rely upon legal advice, and our legal advisor is not here to help me to answer any such legal questions.”


In response Councillor Greg White provided an overview of the report presented to the Executive on 21st February 2023 and suggested that it together with the consultation, the resulting resolutions and adopted policy clearly set out the Council’s intention to operate a single zone.  He also suggested it was apparent that the Executive subsequently agreed to abolish the seven predecessor authority hackney carriage zones and to operate a single zone. 


He confirmed that whilst the decision of the Executive was clear, the Council was now seeking to address the technical requirement of passing an extension resolution to formally abolish the previous zones and apply provisions of the hackney carriage licensing regime across the whole of the administrative area of North Yorkshire.  In order to achieve this intention, the Council had produced a new notice under the Local Government Act 1972 which had been published for two consecutive weeks in a local newspaper circulating in the area and served on all the parish and town councils across the Council’s administrative area.


He went on confirm that as the Executive had made a formal decision in February, this decision would stand unless overturned by a Court of Law. He noted the decision had not been challenged by way of Judicial Review within the appropriate timescales and therefore the decision stood under the principle of presumptive regularity.


Finally, he noted that Section 9D of the Local Government Act 2000 provided that any function of a local authority which was not specified in the Local Authorities (Functions and Responsibilities) (England) Regulations 2000 was to be the responsibility of an executive of the authority under executive arrangements. The 2000 regulations make no reference to the passing of a resolution under paragraph 25 of Schedule 14 to the Local Government Act 1972. The Council was therefore satisfied that the Executive was the appropriate body to take the decision.


In support of Mr Fieldman’s comments, Councillor Barbara Brodigan confirmed her submission of a petition on 9 October 2023 supporting reverting back to the former district taxi zones and outlined a number of concerns as detailed in the petition.


Councillor Andrew Williams confirmed that he too still had concerns about the one zone approach and the potential implications arising from its implementation.  He noted that in other areas where a one zone approach had been introduced, due to a number of issues, they had chosen to revert to their original multi-zone approach e.g. Northumberland.


In response Councillor Greg White suggested the petition had no bearing on the content of the report, as the report did not reopen the debate on whether the former taxi zones should be abolished, it merely sought to reconfirm what had previously been agreed. That said, he went on to clarify a number of points raised in the petition as follows:


·          Congestion and over-supply in the bigger towns, (taxi drivers can now pick-up fares anywhere) but with limited parking on taxi stands. Response – No evidence had been presented to support this being the reality. Enforcement evenings and routine monitoring suggested there had been no significant impact. In fact, some companies had taken advantage of hiring vehicles and drivers that were licensed outside of the former district boundary due to lack of local availability.


·          Difficulties in rural areas and villages, left with limited or no access to taxis. Response – This was a problem before the decision to create one North Yorkshire taxi zone. There was no evidence presented to suggest that the change to zones had any impact.


·          Disabled people being further disadvantaged as drivers are selling wheelchair accessible vehicles, due to increased costs/reduced income. Response – There is no evidence presented that the change to zones had any impact. A separate study was ongoing looking at this specific issue and any recommendations would be fed into the planned taxi policy review early next year.


·          More taxi drivers from outside districts not knowing the local area or the local people. Response – There is no evidence presented to support this. The Council had not received an increase in complaints from customers. If drivers were driving in unfamiliar areas of North Yorkshire they were most likely using technology to overcome this.


·          Local taxi driver's businesses rendered worthless- some losing up to £30,000. Response –Again, this was considered by the Executive in February 2023.  In two predecessor authority areas there had been a cap on the number of hackney carriage vehicles.  Proprietors in these areas were afforded ‘grandfather rights’ on existing licences and were often able to charge a premium when selling their licensed vehicles to individuals seeking to enter the trade. Some of those proprietors had referred to trading plates as a financial investment and one which would be diminished by the proposed policy. There was no certainty for those proprietors that any financial outlay would be secured for a period of time and the risk was borne by those individuals. The licence plate itself remained the property of the relevant authority, not the proprietor, and the predecessor councils did not (and could not) guarantee that the previous grandfather rights would remain in place indefinitely.


Finally, Councillor Greg White confirmed the Council in reaching its decision in February had been mindful of the Department for Transport’s advice that a limit on taxi numbers was unlikely to be in the best interest of consumers. He noted the Office of Fair Trading and Competition Commission (CMA) considered that quantity regulation limited the number of taxis, reduced availability and lowered the quality of service to the public. That competition could exert downward pressure on prices and upward pressure on quality because greater competition meant that firms must fight harder to attract and retain customers. It was the CMA’s view that competition should only be restricted by regulatory rules to the extent that it was necessary to protect customers.


Councillor Greg White went on to formally introduce the report and having noted the contributions at the meeting and associated feedback, the Executive voted in favour of the recommendations, and it was


Resolved – That the seven predecessor district/borough hackney carriage zones for Craven, Hambleton, Harrogate, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Scarborough and Selby be abolished and that all provisions of the hackney carriage licensing regime be applied across the whole of the administrative area of North Yorkshire Council pursuant to paragraph 25, Schedule 14 to the Local Government Act 1972, with effect from 30 November 2023.