Licensing Committee Minutes

Licensing Committee Minutes

Date:
Monday 13 June 2016
Time:
1:00 p.m.
Place:
Mandela Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor B E Taylor (Chair), Councillor J A Walker (Vice Chair), Councillor R Brady, Councillor S Dean, Councillor J Goodchild, Councillor T Lawton, Councillor L Lewis, Councillor D McCabe, Councillor P Purvis (Substitute for Councillor Higgins) and Councillor J Rathmell.
Officers:
C Cunningham, J Dixon and M Vaines.
Apologies for absence:
Councillor R Arundale, Councillor D J Branson, Councillor T Higgins, Councillor T Mawston.
Declarations of interest:

There were no Declarations of Interest made by Members at this point in the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution
PUBLIC
16/1 SUSPENSION OF COUNCIL PROCEDURE RULE NO. 5 - ORDER OF BUSINESS

ORDERED that, in accordance with Council Procedure Rule No 5, the Committee agreed to vary the order of business to consider agenda item numbers 5), Exclusion of Press and Public and 9) Any other urgent items which, in the opinion of the Chair, may be considered, as the next items of business.

16/2 EXCLUSION OF PRESS AND PUBLIC.

ORDERED that the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items on the grounds that, if present, there would be disclosure to them of exempt information as defined in Paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 and that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighed the public interest in disclosing the information.

16/3 ANY OTHER URGENT ITEMS WHICH, IN THE OPINION OF THE CHAIR, MAY BE CONSIDERED.

Vulnerable Passenger Awareness Training

 

With the permission of the Chair it was agreed to deal with this matter as the first item of business as it linked to Agenda Item 4) and to proposed training for taxi drivers which had been provided on a confidential basis.

 

The Acting Principal Licensing Officer advised Members that the Tees Valley Licensing Liaison Group, comprising representatives from Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Stockton, Darlington and Redcar and Cleveland Councils, had been working in partnership with Barnardos to develop a taxi specific on-line CSE/vulnerable person awareness programme which was expected to become nationally available in the near future.

 

The Acting Principal Licensing Officer advised that a copy of the training had been provided to Licensing on a confidential basis, therefore, Members agreed to exclude the press and public from the meeting in order to view the training for information.
 

NOTED
 

16/4 MINUTES OF THE PREVIOUS MEETING OF THE LICENSING COMMITTEE HELD ON 18 APRIL 2016.

The Minutes of the previous Licensing Committee held on 18 April 2016 were submitted and approved as a correct record.

 

** LIFTING OF EXCLUSION - PRESS - PUBLIC

 

ORDERED that the clause excluding the press and public from the meeting be lifted and that the meeting be re-opened.
 

16/5 HACKNEY CARRIAGE AND PRIVATE HIRE LICENSING POLICIES - SAFEGUARDING VULNERABLE PASSENGERS AWARENESS TRAINING.


The Assistant Director of Improving Public Health submitted a report asking Members to consider a proposed amendment to the Council’s policies relating to the licensing of Hackney Carriage drivers, Private Hire drivers and Private Hire Operators by way of introducing a requirement for Safeguarding Vulnerable Passengers Awareness Training which would also include recognising Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) situations.

 

Members were asked to consider the proposed amendments, as detailed in the report, and to approve the commencement of a consultation process.

 

Middlesbrough Council was the Statutory Licensing Authority for Hackney Carriage and Private Hire drivers, vehicles and operators working within the borough. The Council had various policies in place that detailed the standards expected of drivers, vehicles and operators to ensure the safety and comfort of the travelling public. Whilst it was intended to fully review those policies at a future date, it was proposed to amend them at this time to include a requirement in respect of Safeguarding Vulnerable Passengers Awareness Training and Policies.

 

It was acknowledged that taxi drivers had a unique role to play in transporting the general public and training would provide them with valuable insight into illegal activity, such as CSE and other vulnerability issues and what to do if such a situation was recognised.

 

The draft amendment to the Private Hire Drivers Policy, the Hackney Carriage Drivers Policy and the Private Hire Operators Policy was to include a requirement that all new applicants for Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle driver licences and Private Hire Operators (who did not hold a drivers licence) must undertake Council approved Safeguarding Vulnerable Passengers Awareness Training and to produce a certificate as evidence of such training before a licence could be granted.

 

It was also proposed that all existing Hackney Carriage and Private Hire drivers and a representative from existing Private Hire Operators that did not hold a drivers licence, must complete Council approved Safeguarding Vulnerable Passengers Awareness Training and produce a certificate as evidence of such training within one year from the date the new policy requirement takes effect.

 

Failure to complete such training/failure to produce the appropriate certificate may result in the suspension of revocation of an existing licence.

 

The Tees Valley Liaison Group had been working with Barnados to develop a taxi specific on-line CSE/vulnerable person awareness programme and Members had viewed the proposed training.

 

ORDERED as follows:-

  1. That the proposed amendments to the Hackney Carriage Drivers, Private Hire Drivers and Private Hire Operators Policies, as set out in paragraphs 8 to 15 in the submitted report, be approved.
  2. That the draft amendments be advertised for consultation with the taxi trade and interested stakeholders for a period of 28 days. 
  3. That the letter submitted by a Taxi Operator be noted.
     
EXEMPT
16/6 EXCLUSION OF PRESS AND PUBLIC

ORDERED that the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items on the grounds that, if present, there would be disclosure to them of exempt information as defined in Paragraphs 1, 2, 3 and 7 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 and that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighed the public interest in disclosing the information.

 

** SUSPENSION OF COUNCIL PROCEDURE RULE NO. 5 - ORDER OF BUSINESS

 

ORDERED that, in accordance with Council Procedure Rule No 5, the Committee agreed to vary the order of business to consider agenda item numbers 8) as the next items of business.
 

16/7 APPLICATION FOR PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE - REF: 022/16

The Assistant Director of Improving Public Health submitted an exempt report in connection with an application for a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 022/16, where circumstances had arisen which required special consideration by the Committee.

 

The Acting Principal Licensing Officer advised that he had been notified by the applicant’s legal representative, that morning, that the applicant was unable to attend the meeting due to a family bereavement and, therefore, requested that consideration of his application be deferred.

 

ORDERED that consideration of an application for a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref No 022/16, be deferred to the next meeting of the Licensing Committee, to afford the applicant a further opportunity to attend.

 

** ADJOURNMENT OF MEETING

 

The Chair announced that the meeting would be adjourned until 2.30pm as the driver in relation to agenda item 6) (the next item of business) was not present at that time and had not been invited to attend until 2.30pm.

 

** At 2.30pm the meeting re-convened.
 

16/8 APPLICATION FOR COMBINED HACKNEY CARRIAGE/PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE - REF 04/16

The Assistant Director of Improving Public Health submitted an exempt report in connection with an application for a Combined Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 04/16, 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 accompanied by his brother and legal representative, verified his name and address and confirmed that he had received a copy of the report.

 

The Acting Principal Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the circumstances of the case as detailed in the submitted report.

 

The matter was first considered by the Licensing Committee on 15 February 2016, when Members determined to defer consideration of the matter to the next meeting to enable a vulnerability assessment of the applicant to be carried out by an appropriately qualified officer of the Council, and for the Committee to seek internal advice on the extent of its statutory duties in relation to safeguarding and whether those duties applied to the applicant.

It was reported that Officers had made appropriate enquiries with both the Council’s Legal Services and Adult Social Services sections. Having spoken with both at length, it became apparent that, under these specific circumstances, the Council did not have a statutory duty of care towards the applicant. The Senior Licensing Officer was advised that an assessment would not be carried out under the circumstances and that such an assessment would only be undertaken if the person in question requested an assessment themselves. Both the Legal Services and Adult Social Services sections did not believe it was appropriate to impose such an assessment on the applicant. Members were, therefore, asked to consider the information contained in the report to determine whether they considered the applicant to be a fit and proper person to hold a taxi licence.

 

The report provided background information in relation to the application which was first received by the Licensing Section in December 2011. The test, required to be passed by all applicants prior to a Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Driver licence being issued, consisted of various elements including knowledge of the local area, laws affecting the taxi trade, Highway Code and basic numeracy skills. At the time the application was made, the applicant produced a report from Middlesbrough College that suggested he was dyslexic and requested that Officers should take this into account when testing the applicant. The applicant subsequently cancelled a test that was arranged for him in February 2012 and did not arrange a further test until May 2013. At that time, the applicant undertook the test on a one to one basis with a Licensing Officer reading out all of the questions directly to the applicant and recording his answers accordingly. Additional time was allowed for the applicant to complete the test. On that occasion the applicant failed every section of the test.

 

The applicant then arranged to take a re-test in July 2013 and was re-tested under the same conditions as previously. Although there was a slight improvement in his scores, and he did pass the Highway Code section of the test, he again failed the test overall.

 

Four further test appointments were made for the applicant, however, on each occasion the applicant cancelled the appointments prior to the test being undertaken.

 

The applicant was formally tested in October 2013 and again passed the Highway Code section of the test but failed all other areas and was unsuccessful overall. The testing officer raised concerns regarding the application with the Senior Licensing Officer as it was his opinion that continuing to test the applicant in this manner was unlikely to result in the applicant being successful in passing the test and was a waste of the applicant’s time and money. The Senior Licensing Officer was in agreement and wrote to the applicant in November 2013 to advise that the matter was to be referred to the Licensing Committee for Members’ consideration and invited the applicant for a pre-committee interview. No response was received and a significant period of time elapsed where the Licensing Section received no indication from the applicant as to whether he wished to continue with his application.

 

In May 2014 the applicant telephoned the Licensing Section to advise that he wished to continue with his application and asked that an appointment for interview be arranged via his brother, who was assisting him.

 

In 2014 a new testing process was introduced for Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle driver licence applicants, which involved applicants being tested in groups of approximately 20 people. The majority of the test now consisted of multiple choice questions and it was the opinion of the testing officer that the current test was not as demanding as the previous one, however, due to it being a written test, any applicants who had difficulties with reading or writing tended to find it more challenging.

 

Following discussions with the Principal Licensing Officer, it was decided that the applicant should undertake the new test prior to his application being referred to Committee. The applicant undertook the test in September 2015 when the questions were read to him by the Senior Licensing Officer who also recorded his responses. The applicant passed the Highway Code section of the test but failed all other areas. Given the applicant’s previous difficulties with the test, the Senior Licensing Officer raised concerns with the applicant’s brother regarding the applicant’s ability to pass the current test. His brother agreed and felt that the applicant would struggle to undertake the test in one session and suggested that if his brother was allowed to undertake the test in stages it would allow him to focus to a greater extent. This suggestion was agreed to and the applicant was tested over three separate sessions, each session consisting of two parts of the full six part test. The applicant subsequently passed all areas of the test, however, he had difficulties with the numeracy section of the test and was unable to answer one of the questions until he was provided with visual assistance in the form of coins. It was the testing officer’s opinion that the applicant would not have passed the numeracy section of the test without that assistance and would not be able to pass the test if it was undertaken in the standard format.

 

Whilst the applicant had now passed the test, he had not passed it in the manner applied to other applicants. This was not the first occasion where the testing process had been amended to take into account special needs of applicants and previous applicants with dyslexia had undertaken the test verbally applied by officers. This was, however, the first occasion where an applicant had undertaken the test in sections and been unable to pass without visual aids. Officers had also expressed concerns that the applicant did not have the requisite social skills to deal with the more difficult demands of the taxi trade, such as abusive or violent passengers. It was the opinion of Officers that if the applicant was unable to deal with such situations he may be put at greater risk than a driver with more advanced social skills.

 

A letter, attached at Appendix 1, from the Additional Learning Support Manager at Middlesbrough College, was submitted by the applicant and the Senior Licensing Officer subsequently spoke with the Manager in relation to the application. The Manager advised that he did not know the applicant personally but had met with him regarding his application. He explained that the letter he had provided related to the general allowances expected in relation to an individual with dyslexia. The Manager advised that the action taken by officers in relation to the applicant completing his taxi test appeared suitable when making allowances for any applicant with dyslexia but was unable to comment further regarding the applicant’s ability to deal with the more demanding areas of the taxi driver role.

 

It was confirmed that there were no further questions and the applicant, his representatives, and officers of the Council, other than representatives of the Council’s Legal Services and Democratic Services, withdrew whilst the Committee determined the application.

 

Subsequently all interested parties returned and the Chair announced the Committee’s decision.

 

ORDERED that the application for a Private Hire Vehicle driver licence only, Ref No 04/16, be granted for a period of 12 months. As agreed by the applicant, and for the reasons given below, the licence granted was only in respect of a licence to drive Private Hire Vehicles and not a combined licence to drive both Private Hire Vehicles and Hackney Carriages as referred to in the original application.

 

Having considered the contents of the report, the representations and the information provided by the applicant and his representatives the Committee considered its decision to be appropriate for the following reasons:-

  1. Members were concerned regarding the number of tests and adaptations made to those tests, in order for the applicant to pass the test required to be completed successfully by all applicants. 
  2. Members were also concerned that the applicant had experienced difficulties with the numeracy part of the testing process and had concerns as to whether the applicant could adequately deal with testing social situations and the handling of transfers of cash/payments. However, Members noted that the applicant’s employer would support him in his employment and restrict the types of private hire bookings he would undertake, if necessary, in order to meet his capabilities. Therefore, after consideration, the Committee decided to grant a licence to the applicant to drive Private Hire Vehicles only and to limit the length of that licence to a period of 12 months, in light of Members concerns.
     
16/9 APPLICATION FOR PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE DRIVER LICENCE - REF: 020/16

The Assistant Director of Improving Public Health submitted an exempt report in connection with an which required special consideration by the Committee.

 

The Chair introduced those present and outlined the procedure to be followed. The applicant, who was in attendance at the meeting accompanied by his legal representative, verified his name and address and confirmed that he had received a copy of the report.

 

The Acting Principal Licensing Officer presented the report setting out the circumstances of the case in relation to the offences detailed at 1) to 3) in the submitted report. Five further offences were not detailed in the report as they were considered too old to be of relevance to the application.

 

The applicant was interviewed by the Senior Licensing Officer on 28 April 2016 at which time he confirmed that there were no outstanding matters of which the Council was unaware, confirmed that he was in the process of paying off the fines/compensation relating to the offences detailed at 1) to 3) and offered explanations for those offences.

 

The applicant confirmed that the report was an accurate representation of the facts and was invited to address the Committee.

 

The applicant’s legal representative presented the case in support of the application and responded to questions from Members and the Council’s legal representative. The applicant also addressed the Committee in support of his application and also responded to questions from Members and the Council’s legal representative.

 

It was confirmed that there were no further questions and the applicant, his legal representative, and officers of the Council, other than representatives of the Council’s Legal Services and Democratic Services, withdrew whilst the Committee determined the application.

 

Subsequently all interested parties returned and the Chair announced the Committee’s decision.

 

ORDERED that the application for a Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref 020/16, be refused as the Committee did not consider the applicant to be a fit and proper person to hold a Private Hire Vehicle Driver’s Licence for the following reasons:-

  1. Whilst Members noted the explanations provided by the applicant, since 2010 he had been convicted in a criminal Court of four counts of theft and, therefore, four offences involving dishonesty. The most recent offence was committed on 5 December 2013 and the Community Order received by the applicant expired on 4 December 2014. The Council’s Policy Guidance on Convictions, Cautions and Complaints in relation to the relevance of convictions stated that a serious view was taken of any convictions involving dishonesty because of the position of trust of a licensed driver. The guidance stated that where an applicant was convicted of an isolated offence involving dishonesty, an application would normally be refused unless a period of at least three to five years free from conviction has lapsed since the completion of any sentence imposed (4 December 2014 in this case). However, the applicant had committed four offences of theft which might indicate a propensity to be dishonest.

The driver was reminded of his Right of Appeal to the Magistrates Court within 21 days of the date of the decision.
 

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