Taxi and Private Hire Licensing Policy 2022 consultation

Consultation: 25 November 2021 to 17 February 2022

The Council has launched a consultation on a new draft Taxi and Private Hire licensing policy and associated guidance documents and would like your views.

The last revision of the Taxi Licensing Policy took place in 2018 and the Policy now requires to be updated to include the recommendations from the Department for Transport ‘Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards’ (July 2020) in addition to other changes which are required to ensure the Policy follows best practice.

Contents

The main proposed changes include:


Delimitation of Hackney Carriages

The Council currently operate a maximum limit on the number of hackney carriages it will licence. There is no legal means to set a maximum limit to control the number of licenced private hire vehicles.

It is proposed to delimit the number of hackney carriage vehicles (HCV’s) in Plymouth.  There has been a limit in place for many years.  Since Covid-19, the number of vehicles have dropped from 346 to 309.  There is a lack of taxi’s and private hire vehicles across the city since Covid-19 especially during the evenings and this is having an impact on getting people home safely from the Evening and Night Time Economy (ENTE). 

Section 16 of the Transport Act 1985 permits limits on the number of HCV’s.  However, the Department for Transport (DfT), as stated on page 12 of its ‘Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing: Best Practice Guidance’, does not consider quantity restrictions on HCV’s to be best practice. 

The DfT advise that where local authorities have opted for a policy restricting HCV licences that ‘…the Department would urge that the matter should be regularly reconsidered.  The Department further urges that the issue to be addressed first in each reconsideration is whether the restrictions should continue at all.  It is suggested that the matter should be approached in terms of the interests of the travelling public – that is to say, the people who use taxi services.  What benefits or disadvantages would result for the public if the controls were removed?  Is there evidence that removal of the controls would result in a deterioration in the amount or quality of taxi service provision?’.

It also makes the point that where quantity restrictions are imposed there is a premium on the sale of the licence potentially indicating the restriction of people who wish to enter the hackney carriage market. The DfT also argue that delays for passengers associated only with peaks in demand (such as pub or club closing times) are significant for the purpose of the Transport Act 1985 as this entails delays for passengers and should not be ignored.

The DfT advice is that the presumption should be to delimit unless consumer detriment through delimiting can be shown.  The current best practice guidance says that ‘most local authorities do not impose quantity restrictions, the Department regards that as best practice’.  The three most recent reviews were by the Office of Fair Trading in 2003, through the production of the Best Practice Guidance in 2010, and the Law Commission review which published its results in 2014.  The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) became the UK’s lead competition and consumer body.  The CMA brought together the competition and consumer protection functions of the Office of Fair Trading and the Competition Commission in April 2014.  In April 2017, the CMA advised that their view was that quantity restrictions are not necessary to ensure the safety of passengers, or to ensure that fares are reasonable and that they can harm passengers by reducing availability, increasing waiting times and reducing the scope for downward competitive pressure on fares. 

A delimitation would allow free entry to the market and may reduce the rental costs of vehicles, thereby reducing overheads and assist in obtaining a sustainable income for drivers.

CMA and DfT have claimed that increased competition would reduce fares for passengers, improve availability, and reduce waiting times.


New Vehicle Livery (Colour) Requirements (Livery Policy 2022)

It is proposed that for all vehicles plated for the first time by the Council (including existing proprietors on the change of vehicle), proprietors will be required to comply with the following condition(s):

No vehicle shall be licensed as a Hackney carriage vehicle unless its paintwork bodywork are painted in manufacturers ‘white’ colour except for the bonnet and boot lid (rear door) which must be ‘Green’ in colour to colour code RAL – 6037or “wrapped” in 3M Scotchcal Vinyl or equivalent vinyl to the same colour specification.

The paintwork/ bodywork must be professionally finished.  Bare metal, primer paint, visible rust and perforations will not be permitted.

Each Hackney Carriage shall display signs on each door in accordance with the design approved and supplied by the Council.  The sign shall be constructed of vinyl and be applied directly to the door. 

Existing Licensing Vehicles         

is proposed that from 01 January 2027, prospective hackney carriage vehicle proprietors on the transfer of an existing licence, or existing hackney carriage vehicle proprietors upon renewal of a current licence, will as part of that application, be required to comply with the uniform colour scheme:

paintwork/ bodywork must be painted in manufacturers ‘white’ colour except for the bonnet and boot lid (rear door) which must be ‘Green’ in colour to colour code RAL – 6037 or “wrapped” in 3M Scotchcal Vinyl or equivalent vinyl to the same colour specification.

paintwork/ bodywork must be professionally finished.  Bare metal, primer paint, visible rust and perforations will not be permitted.

Each hackney carriage shall display signs on each door in accordance with the design approved and supplied by the Council.  The sign shall be constructed of vinyl and be applied direct to the door. 

Temporary Vehicles

It is proposed that where a temporary vehicle licence is issued, an officer of the Council, may grant a temporary exemption from the Livery Policy, in all cases, the exemption will apply for a maximum period of 28 days and will be permitted on no more than on one occasion in any 12 month period. 

Exceptional circumstances will only be considered where the vehicle change is unplanned and could not reasonably foreseen by the applicant.  Any fees relating to replacement plates, door signs etc. will be payable by the applicant. 

Advertising requirements

the proposed livery is introduced, the advertising and signage guidelines will need to be updated. 

It is proposed that advertising will be permitted for Hackney carriages only on:

  • the tip up seats and any advertisement displayed conforms to the council’s guidance for licensed vehicles.
  • on the rear wing of the vehicles and any advertisement displayed conforms to the council’s guidance for licensed vehicles. The advertisement must be applied directly to the rear wings of the vehicle. Removable, temporary methods of display such as magnetic or similar applications are not acceptable.

Private Hire Vehicle requirements

is proposed that a new vehicle presented for licensing as a Private Hire Vehicle may be of any colour other than white.  From the date of implementation of this livery policy, no white private hire vehicle will be accepted for licensing under any circumstances. 

existing white private hire vehicles must change its colour by 1 January 2027. 


Vehicle Emissions and Age Policy 2022

It is proposed that all vehicles plated for the first time by the Council (including existing proprietors on the change of vehicle), must be less than 3 years old from the date of registration at the time of application and the vehicle must meet the Euro 6 emissions standard as a minimum. 

It is proposed for renewals, that the following age limits will apply from 1 April 2023:

  • Petrol/diesel Private Hire Vehicles - 7 years
  • Petrol/diesel Hackney Carriage Vehicles - 7 years
  • Hybrid vehicles - 10 years
  • ULEV vehicles* - 14 years

Note*: An Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) is currently defined by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles, as emitting less than 75g/KM CO2 and able to travel at least 10 miles without any emissions at all.

This policy will be reviewed as recommended by the Department for Transport at least every 5 years.  Interim reviews will take place to ensure we are striving towards the Government’s Climate and Emergency Action Plan.  It is the Council’s aspiration that all Hackney Carriages and Private Hire vehicles will be required to be at least an Ultra-Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) in the near future and this will be kept under regular review. 


Pre-requisite requirements for new driver applications

Knowledge of Plymouth Topographical Test

It is proposed to remove the requirement for Private Hire Drivers to complete a topographical Knowledge of Plymouth Test. 

Drivers wishing to be a hackney carriage driver will still be required to complete the test.  The reason for this is a hackney carriage vehicle is for immediate public hire whereas a private hire must be pre-booked in advance so can determine the route prior to collecting the passenger.  The Hackney Carriage vehicle must use their meter and the driver will need to have more knowledge of the area to ensure they use the fastest route. 

Plymouth Ambassador Course

It is proposed to require all new drivers to complete the Plymouth Ambassador Course (5 hour course) prior to becoming licensed instead of the current requirement to complete within the first 12 months of being licensed.  The information provided on this course is important and would be more beneficial to drivers at the start of their licence so that they are fully prepared in dealing with customers, understanding their legal requirements and having a good knowledge of the history of Plymouth and what Plymouth has to offer to residents and visitors.

Spoken English Test

It is proposed to amend the Spoken English requirement for all new drivers to ensure it is applied fairly.  This will require all new applicants to provide evidence of having gained a qualification that was taught and assessed in English (Examples are but not limited to, GCSE’s, ‘O Levels’ GCE, NVQ, BTEC, RFQ, City and Guilds or similar, Degree, HND, HNC etc. or a qualification equivalent to any previously listed issued by a recognised examining body in an English speaking country other than the UK). The weight given to the subject and grade achieved will be assessed on a case by case basis.  Any applicants who do not have a suitable qualification will be required to undertake the Spoken English assessment.

Some minor updates have also been added to the procedure as the test provider has slightly altered the way the tests are completely and they have recommended we use the Global Scale of English instead of the Versant scoring.

Return to trade

It is proposed to allow drivers to renew their drivers licence within three years (36 months) from the date of the expiry of their last licence (currently 12 months) without the requirement to complete the Knowledge of Plymouth or Driving Standards Test required of a new applicant, unless there is a specific reason to do so.  It is hoped that this will encourage drivers who left during Covid-19 pandemic to return to the trade.


Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) requirements

To comply with the Department for Transport recommendations it is proposed to:

  • Require licensed drivers to subscribe to the DBS update service so that a DBS check can be completed every 6 months, instead of applying for an enhanced DBS every three years.
  • Require all vehicle proprietors, that are not also holders of a valid hackney carriage or private hire drivers licence granted by Plymouth City Council, to obtain a Basic DBS annually (this was previously required every 3 years).
  • Require all Private Hire Operators to obtain a Basic DBS annually.
  • Require all Private Hire Operators to keep a written or electronic register of all staff that take bookings or dispatch vehicles and must have sight of a Basic DBS for each individual listed.

National Anti-Fraud Network (NR3)

To comply with the Department for Transport recommendations, it is proposed that the Council sign up to the National Anti-Fraud Network (NR3) Register so that all new applicants can be checked against the register to determine if they have been refused or revoked by another Local Authority.  The database will also be used to share information with other Local Authorities about any drivers that have been refused or revoked by Plymouth City Council.


Safeguarding

It is proposed that all Private Hire Operators and their booking staff attend safeguarding training and a refresher every 5 years.


Insurance

It is proposed to require that the insurance certificate/cover note must specify the insurance cover for Public Hire (applicable to Hackney Carriage) or Private Hire/Hire and Reward (applicable to Private Hire) and to require a public liability insurance certificate/cover must be submitted with the application/renewal which clearly indicates insurance cover for a minimum of £5 million.


Card Payments

It is proposed that from 1 July 2022, all hackney carriages must provide a card payment system in the vehicle.  Private Hire vehicles all have the ability to pay in advance over the phone or on the app at the time of booking and the majority of private hire companies require their drivers to provide card payment machines in their vehicles.  This will help passengers to get home safely and not worry about getting cash to pay their cab home. 


Refunds

It is proposed that licence fees should be non-refundable unless using it towards another Plymouth City Council Taxi licence.  No other Devon Local Authorities offer a refund and this is not required in law.  It is also difficult to make future fee predictions when we cannot account for the number of refunds and this has been particularly apparent during Covid-19.


Code of Good Conduct

Minor changes have been included in the draft update to include reference to inappropriate contacts with passengers; the use of mobile phones; consumption of alcohol; reporting of serious illness or injury; and the requirement to provide a receipt if requested.  These additions have been included following feedback from the complaints received by Taxi Licensing.


Guidance on the Relevance of Convictions and Conduct

The draft updated guidance has been reformatted into numbered sections so that it can be easily referred to within Committee Reports.  The offences listed have been reformatted into a table to make it clearer to read.  The time periods for any offences that will be considered by Members have been updated to reflect the recommendations of the Department for Transport.  Additional information has been added to the vehicle proprietor and private hire operator section and some text has been altered/expanded on throughout the document. 


Penalty Points Scheme

It is proposed that additional penalty point codes are added to the current scheme.  Please see the Penalty Points Scheme guidance note for further details.


Wheelchair and Assistance Dogs Exemption Guidelines

The draft updated guidance has been simplified so that drivers can apply for a ‘temporary exemption certificate’ up to a period of 6 months or an ‘exemption certificate’ that will be issued on a case by case basis and for a period determined by the Officer depending on the GP and the specialist consultant’s advice.


Spoken English Test

It is proposed to amend the Spoken English requirement for all new drivers to ensure it is applied fairly.  Please see information above under ‘Pre-requisite requirements for new driver applications’.


CCTV

The Department for Transport has asked all licensing authorities to consult to identify if there are local circumstances which indicate that the mandatory 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.

No changes have been made to the existing CCTV Vehicle guidance.  However a question has been included in the online consultation and if the consultation responses indicate that there may be a need for mandatory CCTV, then the Council will need to undertake a further review.  Mandatory CCTV within licensed vehicles will require the Council to be responsible for the data and act as the data controller.  This will have an impact on the costs of running the Taxi Licensing Service and further work will be required before this is fully implemented.


Consultation

We have updated the Taxi Policy and the following associated guidance documents shown below. A copy of the draft documents with tracked changes has also been included for the majority of the documents so that the revised changes can be easily identified. 

We would now like to hear what local communities think of the proposed changes in addition to the drivers, vehicle owners and private hire operators. 

We recommend you respond to this consultation using our online form.

Consultation survey

Alternatively, you can print a PDF version of the consultation questionnaire and return it to us by 17 February 2022:

By email to taxi.licensing@plymouth.gov.uk

In writing to Taxi Licensing, Windsor House, Plymouth, PL6 5UF


Consultation Documents

Draft Taxi and Private Hire Licensing Policy 2022


Draft Guidance documents

Code of Good Conduct

 

Guidance on the Relevance of Convictions and Conduct

 There is no untracked version for the 2022 document as it has been completely reformatted.  The 2018 version has been included as a comparison.

 

Penalty Point Scheme

 

Wheelchair and Assistance Dogs Exemption Guidelines

 

Spoken English Assessment Test Procedure

 

CCTV Guidance

 This guidance note has not been updated and we are seeking your views on whether this should become mandatory.

New Documents for 2022

Livery Policy 2022

 

Vehicle Emissions and Age Policy 2022