The Assistant Director of Development and Planning Services submitted an exempt report in connection with a review of a Combined Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 21/14, where circumstances had arisen which required special consideration by the Committee.
The Chair introduced those present and outlined the procedure to be followed. The driver, who was in attendance at the meeting, verified his name and current address and confirmed that he had received a copy of the report.
The Senior Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the details of a number of complaints received from York Council Licensing Section with regard to the fact that a Middlesbrough Council Hackney Carriage Vehicle appeared to be being used within York as a Private Hire Vehicle.
The matter had been due to be considered at the Licensing Committee held on 15 April 2014, however on that occasion, the Licensing Section had received a letter prior to the meeting, to advise that the driver was unable to attend and the matter was deferred to this meeting.
Members were advised that when a licensed vehicle and driver operated within another local authority district, the policies and conditions in force within that district did not apply to such vehicles and drivers.
Although the law did not specifically prohibit a Hackney Carriage vehicle from being used as a Private Hire Vehicle in another local authority district, a High Court case (Newcastle v Berwick 2008) stated that "Berwick has discretion under section 37 of the 1847 Act to refuse to issue licences to those who have no intention of exercising their right to ply for hire in Berwick and/or to those who intend to use the vehicle predominantly in an area remote from Berwick".
As a result of the above case, the Council had reviewed its policy in relation to the licensing of Hackney Carriage vehicles and the following additional declaration was placed upon the application form :- I/We confirm that the vehicle to which the application relates receives a Hackney Carriage Licence any pre-booked work undertaken by that vehicle will predominantly* be for journeys where either the pick up or drop off point is within the boundary of Middlesbrough (*predominantly is deemed to be 90% of all pre-booked work over any continuous seven day period).
The driver had been interviewed by the Middlesbrough Council Licensing Section and informed that vehicles and drivers were issued licences by Middlesbrough Council and were expected to work predominantly within the Middlesbrough area and the practice of using a Middlesbrough vehicle in York was causing animosity within York's licensing trade.
Following the meeting the Licensing Section continued to receive complaints from York's Licensing Section and the Council was informed that the driver had changed the colour of his boot and bonnet from yellow (as required by Middlesbrough Council's Hackney Carriage vehicle licensing conditions) to black. The vehicle licence was subsequently suspended but the suspension was later lifted when the yellow bonnet and boot were replaced.
The driver informed the Licensing Office that he intended to obtain a Private Hire Licence from York Council as he had invested in a taxi company in York.
The driver confirmed that the report was an accurate representation of the facts however he disputed the authenticity of the photographic evidence attached at Appendix 3 to the report and he stated that the 10% referred to in the report related to the vehicle licence rather than the driver licence. The driver was invited to address the Committee in support of his case. The driver spoke in support of his case and responded to questions from Members of the Committee, the Council's Legal Officer and the Senior Licensing Officer.
It was confirmed that there were no further questions and the driver and officers of the Council, other than representatives of the Council's Legal Services and Members' Office, withdrew whilst the Committee determined the application.
Subsequently, all interested parties returned and the Chair announced the Committee's decision.
ORDERED that Combined Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 21/14 be retained but the driver be given a final warning regarding his future conduct.
The Committee advised the driver that he must discontinue driving taxis that are registered in Middlesbrough in the York area and failure to do so would result in the driver being brought back before the Committee.
The Committee were concerned that despite numerous complaints from Licensing Officers in York, the driver had continued to drive Middlesbrough registered taxis in York and the view of the Licensing Committee was that by carrying out this practice, the driver was bringing Middlesbrough Council into disrepute with York Council because the driver had not met the required standards to qualify for a Private Hire Driver Licence in York. Members noted that the driver was in control of the vehicles he used in York. Members were also concerned with regard to the fact that the driver would not be bound by any of the taxi conditions and byelaws in York when his drivers licence and vehicles were registered by Middlesbrough Council.
Members considered that the driver was not acting within the spirit of a defining High Court case in relation to the Newcastle v Berwick 2008 judgement which stated that "Berwick has discretion under section 37 of the 1847 Act to refuse to issue licences to those who have no intention of exercising their right to ply for hire in Berwick and/or to those who intend to use the vehicle predominantly in an area remote from Berwick".
The driver had also breached the conditions of his vehicle licence of which he had control by changing the colour of the boot and bonnet from yellow to black although Members acknowledged that he had ceased this practice once he had been informed that it was unacceptable.
Members had noted the concerns of the driver with regard to the authenticity of the photographic evidence attached at Appendix 3 to the report and had disregarded the picture when making their decision.