Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy
The Committee were presented with the proposed amendments to the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy and the associated consultation methodology.
The Regulatory Services Manager outlined key points from the report concerning the proposed policy revisions for:
- Vehicle Emissions
- From 1 April 2025, all vehicle licence applications for newly licenced vehicles (i.e. all applications other than those to ‘renew’ an existing vehicle licence for the same vehicle by the same holder) must be for vehicles that are powered wholly by electricity.
- From 1 April 2030, all vehicle licence applications must be for vehicles that are powered wholly by electricity.
- Vehicle Inspections and MOT Tests
- All additional MOT tests currently required by the Council beyond those required by Road Traffic legislation (i.e. when vehicles are 1, 1 ½, 2 and 2 ½ years old, and then at the 6-month point between each annual MOT), will be replaced with a safety and standards inspection, to be carried out by appropriately qualified technicians at the council’s vehicle workshop located at the Brookvale Depot, or such other place as the council may reasonably require.
- All routine vehicle licensing inspections (e.g. the application inspections carried out as part of new applications and annual renewal applications thereafter) currently carried out by Licensing Officers, will instead be carried out by technicians at the council’s vehicle workshop located at the Brookvale Depot.
The Chair asked that Members consider the proposed policy revision concerning Vehicle Emissions first and asked for questions.
The Regulatory Services Manager fielded questions from the Committee and explained that:
· There were currently no grants or incentives available that could be given to taxi drivers from the Council for moving over to electric vehicles but in the future, the Licensing Team could take that into account when setting the annual licence fee provisions
· It was expected that existing drivers would probably renew their licence with a petrol or diesel vehicle just before the 2025 deadline in order to benefit from using that vehicle right up to 2030. The Licensing Team were happy that there wouldn’t be a significant burden on the existing trade with the proposed policy revisions
· It was possible that some new drivers may be deterred by the electric vehicle provision but it was a route that most Councils were following so there wouldn’t be many alternatives for new taxi drivers anywhere else. In addition, any new drivers considering coming into the trade for the first time would be making that decision in the knowledge of the electric vehicle requirements. All vehicles would eventually have to move over to electric; statistically there had been a 66% growth in the sales of electric vehicle since 2019
· Work is currently underway to find a dedicated area solely for taxis to charge their vehicles; the local taxi trade would be consulted on the decision
The Committee raised concerns about:
- Implementing the policy without having satisfactory infrastructure in place; a fully electric taxi service would require electric charging points in the Town Centre as many drivers wouldn’t be able to charge their vehicles at home
- The amount of charging points that would be available and the policy for using them; if there were too few then all of the taxi drivers wouldn’t be able to charge their vehicles and a number of drivers would lose out on business
The Director (Environment) & Deputy Chief Executive explained that the Council had a carbon neutral pledge to reach by 2030 so it was important to have targets in place to help achieve that goal. In response to concerns over infrastructure, the speed at which electric cars were being manufactured was increasing every year and the Council were working with local partnerships and the Energy Saving Trust to ensure that there were sufficient electric charging points in the town centre within the next few years. By 2025, Gravesham would have enough electric infrastructure in place to allow taxi drivers to charge their vehicles in the town centre.
In response to the logistical issue of too few charging points, the Director (Environment) & Deputy Chief Executive explained that the number of charging points and their locations were key areas that the Parking & Environment Enforcement Services Manager and his colleagues were looking into and would take into consideration.
The Regulatory Services Manager agreed to circulate information outside of the Committee identifying how many new taxi drivers Gravesham registered on average and local turnover.
The Chair asked that Members consider the proposed policy revision concerning Vehicle Inspections & MOT’s and asked for questions.
The Director (Environment) & Deputy Chief Executive and the Regulatory Services Manager fielded questions from the Committee and explained that:
- The additional inspections of taxi vehicles at the Brookvale Depot would be completed by Rosherville Servicing Limited. The Safety and Standards Inspection would cover all the points in a regular MOT plus a number of other checks which enhanced the service
- Some taxi drivers may have deals with local garages where they would get a slightly better quote than at the depot but Rosherville Servicing Limited would never charge higher than the Government maximum rate for an MOT. There may be a £5-£10 disparity between local garage prices and Rosherville prices but it was considered that the additional safety and standards checks were important in helping to raise the standards of the service to taxi customers in the long run
- There were 183 licensed taxi vehicles working in the Borough; some taxi drivers had more than one licensed vehicle
- The depot had checked their capacity and were confident that they could accommodate two visits from each of the 183 vehicles every year. An online booking system would be made available for taxi drivers to book their vehicles in for MOT’s and inspections; the booking system would give them the added benefit of choosing when they wanted to bring the vehicle in which had less of an impact on their business. It would also be possible to make bookings by telephone. It was hoped that many taxi drivers would also take their vehicles in for their annual MOT and service as well
- The report had been submitted to legal before submission to this Committee and legal were happy with the proposals and content; Legal confirmed that the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 stated that Councils could lawfully specify where taxi and private hire vehicles had to go for inspections. It was only unlawful for Councils to specify where those vehicles had to go for their annual MOT which was not being proposed. Taxi Drivers could take their vehicles for an MOT to any establishment they wanted to
Cllr Meade asked that, moving forward, any report that referenced Rosherville Servicing Limited or included work that was being undertaken by Rosherville Servicing Limited should be included in some form within Appendix 1 to the report. Some Board Members may have to declare an interest and having Rosherville referenced in Appendix 1 would make it more transparent.
The Director (Environment) & Deputy Chief Executive advised that he had checked before the meeting if any Member of the Committee needed to declare an interest due to Rosherville and he explained that the work of Rosherville would be made more explicit in future reports.
Cllr Meade described a recent journey he had via taxi in Coventry where the taxi vehicle had an A4 sized laminate style sign on the back of the driver’s seat which outlined the cost of each fare, the charge for any passenger vomiting in the taxi, important objectives for the local authority such as no journey was too short and a QR code which led to an online Council survey that asked for passenger feedback on what was good about the taxi ride and what was not. Cllr Meade asked if something similar could be done in Gravesham as it allowed residents to provide vital feedback to the Council.
The Regulatory Services Manager advised that it sounded like a good idea for the service and agreed to raise the idea with the Digital team to see if a survey could be created and look into the creation of a sign. The Committee was advised that Gravesham taxi drivers all had copies of their tariff cards, which were available on request.
The Regulatory Services Manager explained that once the Policy went to wider consultation including the public as well as the local trade, the results would be collated and brought back to the Committee with recommendations. The report submitted to that meeting would ask the Committee to make the final recommendation for the Chair to sign the Policy and bring it into effect.
The Chair, as Portfolio Holder for Operational Services Cabinet Committee, agreed:
1) To apply a 20p increase to the Flag of the taxi tariff.
2) That the Regulatory Services Manager will proceed with and complete the tariff setting process in the minimum timeframe allowed by legislation.
3) That the next review of the taxi tariff shall commence no later than autumn 2023 in accordance with the previously agreed two-yearly timetable.
The Chair thanked the Committee for their comments.