The Assistant Director of Supporting Communities submitted an exempt report in connection with the review of Private Hire Vehicle Driver Licence, Ref: 43/16, 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, verified his name and address and confirmed that he had received a copy of the report.
The Licensing Manager presented the report setting out the circumstances of the case in relation to the driver having received a written warning from Redcar and Cleveland Council in relation to plying for hire.
Members were reminded that the matter was due to be considered by the Licensing Committee on 14 November 2016, however, the driver failed to attend. Officers subsequently discovered that the driver had been out of the country and the matter was deferred to the meeting on 5 December 2016. The driver again failed to attend and he subsequently stated he had believed that the meeting was arranged for 6 December 2016. The driver was advised that should he fail to attend todays meeting the matter would likely be heard in his absence.
The driver was first licensed with Middlesbrough Council in February 2016 and appeared before Committee due to a written warning he had received from Redcar and Cleveland Council in relation to plying for hire on 2 July 2016 and for making a false allegation during his interview with enforcement officers against his current employer. (The driver had stated that he had been trained by his employer to accept un-booked fares and to telephone the operator to make the booking himself). A copy of the warning letter was attached at Appendix 1.
The driver was interviewed by a Licensing Enforcement Officer on 18 July 2016 when he confirmed that there were no outstanding matters of which the Council was unaware and offered an explanation in relation to the incident.
It was highlighted that, on 2 July 2016, two Licensing Enforcement Officers from Redcar and Cleveland Council had observed the driver picking up a fare that had not been booked. The Officers formally cautioned the driver and conducted an interview at the roadside. A copy of the interview record was attached at Appendix 2. During the interview, the driver told officers that his current employer had advised him, during his training, that when a customer approached the car, the fare must be booked by the driver.
As a result of the allegation, the drivers current employer was interviewed by the Acting Principal Licensing Officer on 7 October 2016. During the interview, the drivers employer refuted the allegation and produced copies of an extract from the training material provided to trainee drivers relating to a Code of Conduct which specifically stated that drivers were not allowed to take flag-downs or accept bookings. This was attached at Appendix 3. In addition, the employer also produced a copy of a notice to drivers that was displayed at various locations in the operators office. A copy of the notice was attached at Appendix 4.
The driver was subsequently re-interviewed by an Enforcement Officer on 10 October 2016 when he confirmed that he had signed forms in relation to having been trained and stated he recalled seeing the code of conduct issued to him and the information regarding flag-downs. The driver stated that he had misunderstood the training information provided to him.
The driver confirmed that the report was an accurate representation of the facts and was invited to address the Committee. The driver addressed the Committee and responded to questions from Members.
It was confirmed that there were no further questions and the driver and officers of the Council, other than representatives of the Councils Legal and Democratic Services, withdrew whilst the Committee determined the review.
Subsequently, all interested parties returned and the Chair announced the Committees decision.
The Committee considered the review on its own merits and considered the submitted report, representations made by the driver and the Councils policy on convictions, cautions, complaints and driver conduct.
ORDERED that Private Hire Vehicle Driver licence, Ref 43/16, be retained but that the driver be issued with a warning.
The Committee considered that plying for hire was clearly an unlawful act but noted that the driver admitted he had misunderstood the legislation and thought that he could pick up passengers and book the job himself with the operator. The driver was now clear that a pre-booked job must be given to him by the operator and that he must not arrange the booking. In view of this, the driver was given a warning regarding his behaviour to illegally ply for hire which would, in all probability, have meant that he would have been uninsured for that journey.