Quantity Restrictions - Hackney Carriage Vehicles
Members considered a report of Councillor Joyce Plummer, Portfolio Holder for Resources, outlining the findings of a recent consultation conducted by the Licensing Manager regarding the possible removal of limits on the numbers of hackney carriage licences issued in the Borough in favour of wheelchair accessible vehicles.
Councillor Plummer indicated that the number of hackney carriage licences in Hyndburn was currently limited to 59. However, to maintain this limit a survey was needed every three years to provide evidence that there was no unmet demand. The survey was due in 2022. Complaints had been received in recent times from customers struggling to find a taxi at night. The result of a stakeholder consultation had demonstrated that there was currently unmet demand. If the limit were to be scrapped, any new licences would only be available for wheelchair accessible vehicles. The consultation had also included the taxi trade and of the 26 responses received 14 were against the removal of restrictions. However, if a formal Unmet Demand Survey were to be carried out, this would cost around £12k with the cost normally being borne by the taxi trade themselves. Given the evidence obtained so far that there was unmet demand, this would seem to be an unnecessary cost. The Police had also been consulted and agreed with the proposal to remove the limit on the grounds of public safety.
Councillor Perter Britcliffe, Joint Deputy Leader of the Opposition, commented that this appeared to be a significant shift in policy and queried whether the move would actually increase the numbers of taxi vehicles on the road. He suggested a more cautious approach, perhaps by raising the limit to 70 hackney carriage vehicles. Members discussed the impact of the pandemic on the trade and loss of many private hire taxi drivers to working on take away food deliveries, such as via Just Eat or Uber Eats. This was believed to be, in part, as a result of the low fares in the private hire sector, making alternative work more attractive. The Council could not set the prices of fares in the private hire sector. However, it was possible that market forces would eventually cause an increase fares in the private hire sector leading to more drivers. The Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder emphasised that the limit in hackney carriage licences could only be raised if a costly survey was undertaken and the outcome showed that there was no unmet demand. However, current evidence suggested that there was unmet demand.
Councillor Marlene Howarth, Leader of the Opposition, commented that there appeared to be insufficient taxi ranks for hackney carriages and that these were often blocked by unauthorised vehicles. If more licences were granted there would be nowhere for additional taxis to park. She mentioned that take away food deliveries might wane as the pandemic subsided, returning drivers to the taxi trade. She asked if out-of-borough licenced taxis could be prevented from picking up a fare in Hyndburn. Jane Ellis, Head of Legal and Democratic Services, responded that there was no way to prevent a properly licenced driver/vehicle from operating in the Borough wherever their licences originated from. The majority of local authorities no longer had a limit on the number of licences. Officers were currently liaising with Lancashire County Council about enforcement in respect of taxi rank usage.
Councillor Munsif Dad BEM JP spoke in support of the proposals. Consultations with drivers had provided a mixed response but, on balance, the proposals would prevent unnecessary costs being borne by the taxi drivers for an Unmet Demand Survey. He also welcomed the work to tackle the unauthorised use of taxi ranks.
The Leader commented that the standard of hackney vehicle required would prevent any relaxation of the limit on the number of licences from becoming ‘free for all’.
Approval of the report was not deemed a key decision.
Reasons for Decision
The report set out the detailed background to the proposed decision and highlighted the following conclusions:
The consultation had clearly set out that there was significant unmet demand for hackney carriages in Hyndburn with 66.63 % of people responding on the Survey Monkey questionnaire stating that they had given up waiting on ranks and 56.45% stating that they had given up trying to hail a cab in the street due to the lack of availability and had to look for alternative ways of getting home. The concern was that this could sometimes mean walking home late at night, getting a lift in an unlicensed vehicle with an unlicensed driver or even risking driving themselves after having a drink.
When asked what would encourage someone to use a taxi more often 55.78% had said more hackneys they could phone for and 43.89% said more hackneys that they could hail on the street or get at a rank. When asked if there were enough hackney carriage vehicles in Hyndburn 78.9% of those responding on Survey Monkey said no.
Of the responses to the question about requiring a wheelchair accessible vehicle 12.9% said they knew someone that needed to use one and 2.58% said they needed to use one themselves.
Taking into account the outcome of the consultation, officers recommended that the Council remove the restrictions on the numbers of hackney carriage licences that were issued.
Further officers recommended that any new licences should only be issued to purpose built or professionally modified wheelchair accessible vehicles and that current proprietors of hackney carriage vehicles should maintain their grandfather rights.
Members could consider the removal of the limits on hackney carriage vehicle licences issued completely for any type of vehicle, however there was a requirement for wheelchair accessible vehicles in the Borough.
Members could choose to maintain the limits on hackney carriage vehicle licences and instruct the Licensing Manager to commission an Unmet Demand Survey. If this option was taken Members should determine how the survey should be paid for.
When making the decision Members should consider the issue from the travelling public’s point of view and consider what benefits or disadvantages would result for the public if the controls were removed. For example, was there evidence that the removal of controls would result in deterioration in the amount or quality of taxi service provision?
If Members were minded to remove the restrictions on numbers in favour of wheelchair accessible vehicles officers recommended that the policy wording be amended to reflect this change, as set out at Appendix 4 to the report.
Alternative Options considered and Reasons for Rejection
The Council could have taken the option to do nothing however it was clear from the complaints received and the consultation responses, that there was a real problem in Hyndburn that the Council needed to deal with. Further, in the event of a challenge to a decision to refuse a licence, the authority would have to prove that it had reasonably, been satisfied that there was no significant unmet demand.
Resolved (1) That Cabinet notes the responses to the consultation and the apparent current shortage of available licensed taxi vehicles in Hyndburn.
(2) That Cabinet agrees that the limit on hackney carriage vehicles be removed in favour of wheelchair accessible vehicles.
- Hackney Carriage Vehicles - Main Report, item 249. PDF 111 KB
- Appendix 1 - Survey Analysis, item 249. PDF 67 KB
- Appendix 2 - Responses from the Trade, item 249. PDF 117 KB
- Appendix 3 - Police Response, item 249. PDF 96 KB
- Appendix 4 - Suggested Policy Amended Wording, item 249. PDF 133 KB
- Appendix 5 - Customer First Analysis, item 249. PDF 179 KB