CHANGES TO DRIVING LICENCE CHECKS FOR PRIVATE HIRE AND HACKNEY CARRIAGE DRIVERS
To receive a report from Greg Nelson, Trading Standards & Licensing Lead.
The Panel to note the report and agree the suggested changes.
Greg Nelson, Trading Standards and Licensing Lead introduced the report to Members and highlighted the following key points:
Ø The requirement to see and verify an applicant’s full UK driving licence before they can be issued with a RBWM private hire vehicle (PHV) or hackney carriage (HC) driver’s licence was a fundamental and long standing requirement.
Ø The check ensured that the applicant had a full UK, NI or European driving licence for at least two years, as was required by the RBWM Private Hire Driver Policy & Conditions and the Hackney Carriage Driver Policy & Conditions (“the Policies”). It also checked the status of the licence, that is, whether it bears any endorsements or convictions which would have a bearing on whether or not to issue the applicant with a RBWM PHV or HC driver’s licence.
Ø Up until now, applicants for a RBWM PHV or HC driver’s licence had paid £7.50 to a company which carried out licence checks, the results of which were presented to RBWM Licensing Officers.
Ø The company that had provided the service, Intelligent Data Systems Ltd (IDS), had served notice that it would no longer provide the service from 19 October 2019. The Borough therefore, needed to provide an alternative means of driving licence checking and verification and amend the Policies accordingly.
Ø IDS had suggested another commercial supplier for the service which would be at a similar cost to the applicants. However officers believed that there was another alternative which would reduce the cost to the applicant to zero, and would not take up any more officer/administrator time.
Ø The alternative would require the applicant to access their driving licence data via the www.gov.uk website and show the information provided to a RBWM officer at their application appointment.
Ø If the applicant did not have access to the internet, they could ask a RBWM officer to access the website and obtain the required information at their application appointment.
Ø Applicants would also be required to authorise access by RBWM licensing officers to their driving licence status for the duration of their hackney carriage, private hire or combined licence.
Ø The Trading Standards and Licensing Lead confirmed drivers did not need to provide a print out of their data, they could show a licensing officer the data electronically from their mobile device.
Ø Licensing officers would obtain authorisation to access a drivers licence for the duration of their RBWM driver’s licence.
Councillor Clark stated the Council could charge drivers for the activity. Councillor Sharpe added the Borough was taking on the additional activity of checking licences so it seemed sensible to charge them for it. He did not see why the Council should waive the charges as an external company would charge. The Trading Standards and Licensing Lead said he would be the first to say that due to extra work being carried out by officers, extra resources would be required to cover it but, the driver would hand over a piece of paper or, show the data on his phone screen to prove who he was so the additional activity was negligible and did not warrant charging a fee. Councillor Sharpe stated officers would be checking approximately 500 licences per year so that would add up to a lot of additional activity to be carried out. Councillor Davey stated the new process was quicker than what was currently in place and it was a government service free to use. it would probably cost more to administer the fee that it would to carry out the check.
Councillor Cannon stated the Borough and it’s officers were the regulator and not the friend of the drivers; he felt officers workloads would be slightly reduced by the new system proposals so it did not justify the charge. The Trading Standards and Licensing Lead explained to Members that the Borough needed to think about costs for drivers as the application process was a very costly exercise for drivers. He agreed that the Council were the driver’s regulators but, it also needed to be as supportive as it could be.
Councillor Baldwin stated the deadline for needing the new system being in place was the 19 October 2019 and queried if by moving the checks in house, if the Council would be taking on any legal liability. The Trading Standards and Licensing Lead stated that the drivers had to be fit and proper and the checks would ensure that. Councillor Baldwin expressed some concern that the new system would potentially increase the likelihood of impersonation. The Trading Standards and Licensing Lead confirmed that it would not make any difference. The Borough had a disproportionate number of taxi drivers so, getting them to use an online app made it quicker and more cost effective for the Borough when carrying out checks. There had been incidents in the past of impersonation so, the officers always required to see the driver in person at the time of application. The changes to the system would not make any difference to that.
Councillor Davey said he had spoken to a taxi driver who had said he earned the same money today as a taxi drive as he did 15 years ago, but his costs had rocketed. Councillor Davey felt it was right not to charge the driver’s for the service. Councillor Cannon agreed and did not consider it an appropriate way to increase receiving fees from drivers. The Trading Standards and Licensing Lead confirmed that if down the line officers saw their workloads increase and costs go up, they would bring a report back to Panel to request and increase in application fees to cover those costs.
RESOLVED UNANIMOUSLY: That the Licensing Panel noted the report and:
i. Agreed to change the Private Hire Driver Policy & Conditions and the Hackney Carriage Driver Policy & Conditions respectively to reflect the new driving licence checking procedure.