Proposed changes to Taxi Policy following the publication of the DfT "Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards"
The DfT states the following in the introduction of the document:
- There is evidence to support the view that taxis and private hire vehicles are a high-risk environment. In terms of risks to passengers, this can be seen in abuse and exploitation of children and vulnerable adults facilitated and in some cases perpetrated by the trade and the number of sexual crimes reported which involve taxi and private hire vehicle drivers.
- Whilst the focus of the Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards is on protecting children and vulnerable adults, all passengers will benefit from the recommendations contained in it. There is consensus that common core minimum standards are required to regulate better the taxi and private hire vehicle sector, and the recommendations in this document are the result of detailed discussion with the trade, regulators and safety campaign groups.
- The Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards reflect the significant changes in the industry and lessons learned from experiences in local areas since the 2010 version of the Department's Best Practice Guidance.
As a result of the standards being published a report was taken to Licensing Committee on the 25th November 2020 suggesting how our policies should be amended in light of the standards. Licensing Committee approved the amendments for consultation with the licensed trade, stake holders and the public.
It is important that you take this opportunity to have your say on the changes that are being proposed as they can potentially affect everyone that operates or uses East Herts licensed vehicles.
All comments and suggestions will be included in a report that will go before the Licensing Committee for consideration on the 10th March 2021. There are 14 proposed changes detailed in this document and in each case you will see:
- The Paragraph number and appropriate text from the DfT's Statutory Taxi & Private Hire Vehicle Standards;
- What East Herts current policy says;
- What the proposed policy change is.
The consultations will close on the 21st February 2021 at midnight.
There are three ways to share your views:
- Via email to: Licensing.firstname.lastname@example.org. Please make the subject of your email "DfT Standards Consultation"
In writing either by post or hand delivered to: Licensing, East Herts Council, Wallfields, Pegs Lane, Hertford, Hertfordshire, SG13 8EQ
Please use the proposal numbers when responding so that it is clear which part you are commenting on.
1. Licensee self-reporting, paragraph 4.12 of the standards states:
Licence holders should be required to notify the issuing authority within 48 hours of an arrest and release, charge or conviction of any sexual offence, any offence involving dishonesty or violence and any motoring offence. An arrest for any of the offences within this scope should result in a review by the issuing authority as to whether the licence holder is fit to continue to do so. This must not however be seen as a direction that a licence should be withdrawn; it is for the licensing authority to consider what, if any, action in terms of the licence should be taken based on the balance of probabilities. Should an authority place an obligation on licensees to notify under these circumstances, authorities should also ensure appropriate procedures are in place to enable them to act in a suitable timeframe if and when needed.
East Herts current policy on notification of relevant matters: Licence holders are currently required to notify the authority of such matters within 3 days.
Proposal 1: to amend the time period for reporting relevant matters to 48 hours.
2&3. Criminal convictions and rehabilitation, paragraph 5.16 of the standards states:
Annexed to this document are the Department’s recommendations on the assessment of previous convictions (Annex – Assessment of previous convictions). This draws on the work of the Institute of Licensing, in partnership with the LGA, the National Association of Licensing Enforcement Officers (NALEO) and Lawyers in Local Government, in publishing its guidance on determining the suitability of taxi and private hire vehicle licensees.
Note: The recommendations made in the Annex are generally identical or less strict than we already have in place except in relation to two driving offences, drink driving/driving under the influence of drugs and using a hand-held device whilst driving.
East Herts current policy on drink/drug driving: As licence holders are professional vocational drivers, serious view is taken of convictions for driving, or being in charge of a vehicle while exceeding the legal limit or under the influence of drink or drugs.
If an individual has previously been an addict then they will be required to show evidence of 5 years free from alcohol or drug taking after detoxification treatment.
The time period that a person would have to remain conviction free would vary from between 1 – 5 years depending on the penalty imposed upon conviction.
Proposal 2: that the Suitability Policy be amended so that a person who is convicted of drink driving or driving under the influence of drugs will not be granted a licence until at least 7 years have elapsed since completion of any sentence or period of disqualification, whichever is the later. Existing licence holder convicted of drink driving or driving under the influence of drugs to be revoked.
East Herts current policy on using hand-held devices whilst driving: This offence is not explicitly detailed in the Suitability Policy so the time period that a person would have to remain conviction free would vary from between 1 – 5 years depending on the penalty imposed at conviction.
Proposal 3: that the Suitability Policy be amended so that a person who is convicted for using a held‐hand mobile telephone or a hand‐held device whilst driving will not be granted a licence until at least five years have elapsed since the conviction or completion of any sentence or driving ban imposed, whichever is the later.
Driver Licensing, paragraph 6.2 of the standards states:
All individuals applying for or renewing a taxi or private hire vehicle drivers licence licensing authorities should carry out a check of the children and adult Barred Lists in addition to being subject to an enhanced DBS check (in section x61 of the DBS application ‘Other Workforce’ should be entered in line 1 and ‘Taxi Licensing’ should be entered at line 2). All licensed drivers should also be required to evidence continuous registration with the DBS update service to enable the licensing authority to routinely check for new information every six months. Drivers that do not subscribe up to the Update Service should still be subject to a check every six months.
East Herts current policy on criminal record checks: Registration to the DBS Updated service is mandated at renewal but not everyone would be on it until June 2023.
Enhanced DBS application required upon application for a drivers licence then every three years with a Basic DBS carried out in the two intervening year.
Proposal 4: That all existing drivers that are not registered on the DBS Update service are required to do an Enhanced DBS and sign up to the DBS Update service when a criminal record check is next due (regardless of whether that check would normally be a basic level check).
Note: This will mean that all licensed drivers will be on the Update Service and subject to 6 monthly checks within 12 months of the policy change.
5. Language proficiency, paragraph 6.15 of the standards states:
A licensing authority’s test of a driver’s proficiency should cover both oral and written English language skills to achieve the objectives stated above.
East Herts current policy on language proficiency: Where there is concern over an applicant’s standard of English comprehension, they may be required to undertake a language skills assessment with a TESOL registered assessor.
Note: The authority has for some time relied upon the new driver training day and testing to provide evidence of an applicant’s ability to speak and write English. With the necessary move to online training this is no longer adequate.
There has been no formal assessment in place and there is no subsequent testing of drivers at renewal.
Proposal 5: To introduce formal testing of new applicants and existing licensed drivers for both written and spoken English language skills.
6. Criminality checks for vehicle proprietors, paragraph 7.2 of the standards states:
Enhanced DBS and barred list checks are not available for vehicle licensing. Licensing authorities should require a basic disclosure from the DBS and that a check is undertaken annually. Any individual may apply for a basic check and the certificate will disclose any unspent convictions recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC). Licensing authorities should consider whether an applicant or licence holder with a conviction for offences provided in the annex to this document (Annex – Assessment of previous convictions), other than those relating to driving, meet the ‘fit and proper’ threshold.
East Herts Current policy on criminal record checks for vehicle proprietors: Not in current policy.
Proposal 6: Amend the policy to require annual Basic DBS checks for any vehicle proprietor that does not hold either a driver or operator licence with this Authority.
7. Criminality checks for vehicle proprietors, paragraph 7.9 of the standards states:
All licensing authorities should consult to identify if there are local circumstances which indicate that the installation of CCTV in vehicles would have either a positive or an adverse net effect on the safety of taxi and private hire vehicle users, including children or vulnerable adults, and taking into account potential privacy issues.
East Herts current policy on CCTV in licensed vehicles: The hackney carriage and private hire trade provide a valuable public service, especially late at night when other forms of public transport are no longer available. Security for drivers and passengers is of paramount importance. In car security cameras can be a valuable deterrent as well as protecting the driver from unjustified complaints.
The hackney carriage and private hire vehicle trades are encouraged to consider installing their own in car security cameras.
Proposal 7: To seek opinions regarding the installation of CCTV in licensed vehicles to inform future decisions:
- Do you think CCTV in vehicles would have a positive or negative effect on the safety of drivers and people using licensed vehicles? Why?
- Do you think is should be mandatory to have a CCTV system fitted in all licensed vehicles, just Hackney Carriages or neither type of vehicle? Why?
- If CCTV systems are mandated should they have the ability to record audio? Why?
8. Ciminality checks for private hire vehicle operators, paragraph 8.2 of the standards states:
Enhanced DBS and barred list checks are not available for private hire vehicle operator licensing. Licensing authorities should request a basic disclosure from the DBS and that a check is undertaken annually. Any individual may apply for a basic check and the certificate will disclose any unspent convictions recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC). Licensing authorities should consider whether an applicant or licence holder with a conviction for offences provided in the annex to this document (Annex – Assessment of previous convictions), other than those relating to driving, meet the ‘fit and proper’ threshold.
East Herts current policy on criminal record checks for private hire operators: Individual applicants or the applicant is a company, all the Directors, are required to supply a Basic DBS check at first application and renewal (which is every 5 years).
Proposal 8: Amend the Policy so that holders of operator licences are required to carry out a Basic DBS annually.
9. Booking and dispatch staff, paragraph 8.8 of the standards states:
Licensing authorities should be satisfied that private hire vehicle operators can demonstrate that all staff that have contact with the public and/or oversee the dispatching of vehicles do not pose a risk to the public. Licensing authorities should, as a condition of granting an operator licence, require a register of all staff that will take bookings or dispatch vehicles is kept.
East Herts current policy on staff registers: Not in current policy.
Proposal 9: To amend Private Hire Operator licence conditions to require a register for all staff.
10. Booking and dispatch staff, paragraph 8.9 of the standards states:
Operators should be required to evidence that they have had sight of a Basic DBS check on all individuals listed on their register of booking and dispatch staff and to ensure that Basic DBS checks are conducted on any individuals added to the register and that this is compatible with their policy on employing ex-offenders. DBS certificates provided by the individual should be recently issued when viewed, alternatively the operator could use a ‘responsible organisation’ to request the check on their behalf. When individuals start taking bookings and dispatching vehicles for an operator they should be required, as part of their employment contract, to advise the operator of any convictions while they are employed in this role.
East Herts current policy on Basic DBS checks for individuals on the staff register: Not in the current policy.
Proposal 10: To amend Private Hire Operator licence conditions to require operators to ensure annual Basic DBS checks are carried out and viewed for every one included on their register of staff.
11. Booking and dispatch staff, paragraph 8.11 of the standards states:
Operators may outsource booking and dispatch functions but they cannot pass on the obligation to protect children and vulnerable adults. Operators should be required to evidence that comparable protections are applied by the company to which they outsource these functions.
East Herts current policy on outsourced booking and dispatch functions: Not in current policy.
Proposal 11: To amend Private Hire Operator licence conditions so that where booking and dispatch is outsourced operators are required to evidence that the outsourced staff are vetted to the same level as if they worked directly for the operator.
12. Booking and dispatch staff, paragraph 8.12 of the standards states:
Licensing authorities should also require operators or applicants for a licence to provide their policy on employing ex-offenders in roles that would be on the register as above. As with the threshold to obtaining a private hire vehicle operators’ licence, those with a conviction for offences provided in the annex to this document (Annex – Assessment of previous convictions), other than those relating to driving, may not be suitable to decide who is sent to carry a child or vulnerable adult unaccompanied in a car.
East Herts current policy on employing staff with previous convictions: Operators must have an employee conviction policy if employing anyone other than an East Herts Licensed Driver i.e. a controller who is taking bookings and/or despatching vehicles.
Proposal 12: To amend Private Hire Operator licence conditions so that the authority’s standards which apply to Operators (as detailed in the “Suitability Policy”) must be applied by the operator to all staff that have contact with the public and/or oversee the dispatching of vehicles.
13. Record Keeping, paragraph 8.13 of the standards states:
Section 56 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 requires private hire vehicle operators to keep records of the particulars of every booking invited or accepted, whether it is from the passenger or at the request of another operator. Licensing authorities should as a minimum require private hire vehicle operators to record the following information for each booking:
- the name of the passenger;
- the time of the request;
- the pick-up point;
- the destination;
- the name of the driver;
- the driver's licence number;
- the vehicle registration number of the vehicle;
- the name of any individual that responded to the booking request;
- the name of any individual that dispatched the vehicle.
East Herts current policy on operator record keeping: Operators must keep legible and complete records of taxi bookings, must keep these at the place where they are licensed to operate and must make these records available to authorised Licensing Officers on request.
Must maintain records for at least 6 months which show details of the bookings taken and the driver/vehicle which carried out the contract.
Proposal 13: To amend Private Hire Operator licence conditions so that they require this information to be recorded as a minimum.
14. Record Keeping, paragraph 8.16 of the standards states:
PCV licensed drivers are subject to different checks from taxi and private hire vehicle licensed drivers as the work normally undertaken, i.e. driving a bus, does not present the same risk to passengers. Members of the public are entitled to expect when making a booking with a private hire vehicle operator that they will receive a private hire vehicle licensed vehicle and driver. The use of a driver who holds a PCV licence and the use of a public service vehicle (PSV) such 32 as a minibus to undertake a private hire vehicle booking should not be permitted as a condition of the private hire vehicle operator’s licence without the informed consent of the booker.
East Herts Current policy on dispatching PSV vehicles and drivers to fulfil private hire bookings: Not in current policy.
Proposal 14: To amend Private Hire Operator licence conditions to prohibit the use of a public service vehicle (PSV) such as a minibus to undertake a private hire vehicle booking without the informed consent of the booker.