Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Trades in Uttlesford
”Licensing Committee reverses its own decision to impose massive increase in our licence fees”
ULODA led trade delegation to persuade Uttlesford District Council NOT to agree to apply a 29% increase on all trade licence fees as recommended by its Lead Officer and Assistant Chief Executive – Legal. Senior trade representatives attended meetings of the Licensing Task Group (with Council Officers and Committee Members), which investigated the Licensing Accounts and uncovered an overpayment by the trade of 160,000 + over several years. This money was ringfenced into a Licensing Reserve by order of the Licensing Committee and the Lead Officer was instructed to work with the trade to ensure its repayment by discounting all our licence fees. We have monitored the fund annually with Council Officers since 2010. It stood at 10% of the original surplus in April 2016.
”Council revokes taxi firm’s Licences over false address in Uttlesford”
ULODA has been strongly supportive of UDC’s recent robust challenge to taxi firms from outside the area seemingly intent on taking advantage of our discounted licence fees, reported to be almost certainly one of the lowest in Essex if not in the UK. A taxi boss from Chelmsford has been stripped of his licences by the licensing Committee following a council investigation into his listed office address in the district which failed to find any evidence that the business or the vehicles were based in Uttlesford. We are now working with Council Officers to ensure that stronger controls are in place at the point of licence applications in order to protect bona fide taxi firms long established in our area.
”Scrutiny Committee demands review of Licensing Policy and Enforcement Strategy, and relaunch of Taxi Forums”
ULODA is vigorously leading the current trade campaign to secure radical change in the Council’s Enforcement regime. For many years operators, proprietors and drivers alleged to have breached the legislation or their licence conditions were subjected to treatment by Officers we described as ”harsh” and ”draconian”, with licence holders often punished or sanctioned when a lighter touch was probably more appropriate. This regime has been in evidence since before the adoption of the new Licensing Policy in 2013. We have presented the trade’s case to the Licensing Committee at every meeting since for a less formal disciplinary approach to offenders with informal advice and good education as its key features. Our new President, previously the committee’s Chair and a strong long believer in education, is committed to helping us secure a truly consultative way of working on matters of policy and practice, and better trade engagement.
Private Hire Vehicles and Hackney Carriage Vehicles in Uttlesford
“UDC outsources taxi compliance testing”
Vehicle testing was previously the preserve of the District Council who fiercely protected their right (as they saw it) to conduct their own tests in their own (ancient) workshop behind their offices in Great Dunmow, a facility also used for the servicing, maintenance and garaging of their own fleet of vehicles, mainly refuse trucks, which were an obstacle to the proper performance of the taxi testing process. ULODA strongly supported the presentation made by the premier licensed taxi group which persuaded the Licensing Committee to change to using independent, modern local garages across the district. These were subject to stringent national quality checks before being made available to the trade. An immediate benefit of outsourcing was the significant reduction in waiting time for vehicle testing appointments.
” CCTV installed in vehicles at no cost to the trade!”
ULODA worked in partnership with UDC and Essex County Council, who generously made £15,000 available to spend to fund the selection and installation of state-of-the-art CCTV for UDC taxis and PHVs on a first come, first served basis. The project was a trial for the trade and both the association’s Chair and the Chair of the Licensing Committee were interviewed by BBC Essex about the benefits of the scheme for passengers and drivers. There is now a policy in place which has built on the scheme’s key features, thus making it easy for all vehicle operators and proprietors to take full advantage of its advanced safety and security protocols.
”New taxi rank for Saffron Walden”
With the Chair of the Licensing Committee, also a District and Town Councillor, and the Council’s Licensing Officer, ULODA was instrumental in securing the approval of Essex Highways to adapt an existing High Street bus stop to allow taxis to use the stand for hire out of normal public service hours. The provision of this extra rank has been only a limited success to date as a result of the trade’s difficulty in accessing the rank due to illegal parking by members of the public and inadequate enforcement which has been less than effective.
”Council introduces new plate exemption policy for PHVs”
The association worked with and on behalf of private hire operators in consultation with Council Officers to develop and implement a policy which regularised the previous practice of permitting vehicles not to display a licence plate in exceptional circumstances. The new scheme is designed to help operators appreciate the benefits of unmarked licensed vehicles and understand how to apply for council exemption from displaying plates in order to meet the business need for extreme passenger security and the special requirements of senior executive hire.