To receive a verbal update on the work of the Taxi Licensing task group. A copy of the group’s final report is attached for the Committees consideration.
9.1 Cllr Kate Haigh, as Chair of the Taxi Licensing Task Group, introduced the report and members noted the following points:
· The task group was set up by this Committee and the report had been considered at the GEGJC meeting this morning. As scrutiny would normally consider task group reports first, members of the GEGJC were aware that if there were any comments or amendments coming out of this meeting, it would be fed back to them before any recommendations were acted on.
· As taxi and vehicle licensing in the county was a responsibility of the district council, the GEGJC seemed the most appropriate platform for the recommendations to be presented, as all the leaders of the districts were members of the GEGJC and could therefore take the recommendations back to their respective council. There were some recommendations that came within GCC’s responsibility so this report would also be presented to Cabinet the following week.
· The task group had some very wide ranging discussions as taxi and vehicle licensing affected a number of areas, not just the licensing aspects and these were always considered in a Gloucestershire-wide context.
· The ambition of the task group arose from the economic contribution of in the taxi and licensing trade and the potential major impacts of changes coming through the system on how that trade worked in the future, for example, app based private hire.
· District councils were within their right to have different approaches to how they manage this process but there was experience around the country of some authorities who suffered from neighbouring authorities having different standards for example, allowing licenses where they had been revoke under another local authority, but drivers returning to operate in the town/city where they had been disqualified.
· There were increasing examples in other parts of the country where drivers were working in larger cities that were sometimes thousands of miles away from where they had been awarded their license.
· The group tried to adopt a medium pressure approach across the areas considered, in order to not disadvantage the more rural areas who suffered different impacts compared to the urban towns.
· An example was given here of the inevitable move to electric vehicles within the trade that may have a bigger impact in our rural communities who already suffered from a lack of availability.
· The recommendation for all authorities to sign up to the NR3 offered a really good tool for licensing officers to see if there were any red flags when considering new drivers for licenses.
· The group hoped these recommendations were a good step to having a joined up approach across the county that would benefit our economy and residents.
9.2 Another member of the task group informed the Committee that the work undertaken really highlighted to the differing challenges across our urban and rural areas, and also the need to take some of the existing initiatives even further, such as disability access and electric vehicle take up. It was also appreciated that all of these changes cost drivers money, which made it difficult to invest in if they operated in a low level activity area.
9.3 In addition, it was viewed that as a society, we do undervalue the cost of travel. We tend to make a comparison with travelling in a private car and assume a taxi trade should be operating at a small multiplier of that. But when you add up all the costs of transport, it simply was not viable for the trade to do so. We needed to better appreciate that transport should reflect the true cost of travel, including all environmental and safety factors. It was felt that the task group meetings alone had moved towards greater cooperation across the county in this area.
9.4 At this morning’s GEGJC meeting, it was agreed that the Chief Executives from all six districts would identify a senior officer to support the licensing group in exploring these recommendations, recognising that if they were going to be implemented, there was a need for senior support to do so. At member level, this was the first example of a piece of cross-county work in this area which was very positive.
9.5 The Committee approved for the report to go forward to the districts to explore the recommendations.