To consider the licence fees in respect of Hackney Carriage, Private Hire and Operator Licences for 2021/22.
The Licensing and Compliance Manager presented a report regarding a change of fees for Drivers, Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicles and Private Hire Operators which are scheduled to take effect from 1 April 2021.
The increase in licence fees was required to fully recover the underlying costs associated with the issue and recoverable administration costs of each licence type. This included covering the costs of an additional 0.5 FTE safeguarding post who will work to develop a working relationship and information sharing platforms with Essex County Council, plus an additional enforcement officer needed to carry out compliance checks with garages.
In response to members’ questions, officers clarified the following:
· The change of fees could be subject to a judicial review should a party, such as an Operators Association or Local Education Authority, feel that they have been adversely impacted illegitimately.
· The waiting time for processing licence documentation is impacted by the activity of third parties such as the DBS, as well as the seasonal fluctuation of applications. For example, companies who applied for school contract tenders would not employ new drivers until they had heard that they have been awarded the contract. This meant that the service was typically hit with applications for new drivers in the late summer time.
· Officers were speaking to drivers about moving the cycle of renewals to spring, to help even out the seasonal fluctuation of waiting times.
· The Uttlesford District Council website would be updated to streamline the application process which would speed up waiting times. When addressing members’ concerns about the waiting times, officers clarified that there was a balance between speeding up the processing of applications and risking the reputation of UDC, as well as the safety of the public.
· In response to the public speaker’s request for an electronic licence to be made available immediately following an application’s approval, officers reminded the Committee that they approved the implementation of a new signs and dash badges scheme for Uttlesford vehicles. As part of the scheme, it was agreed that a new badge would be available to be collected any day from the Printroom and they hoped that this arrangement could be implemented by the summer, pending logistics arrangements and any upcoming legislative changes.
· The service was provided on a costs recovery only basis, so the costs had to be allocated correctly. The varying levels of fees increase was proportional to the rising costs in certain areas of administration.
Members discussed whether the increase in fees was necessary, given the ongoing impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the trade. It was noted that the licensing service worked at neither a loss nor profit, and the rise was necessary to fully recover costs. Furthermore, despite the ongoing pandemic, there were still a large number of drivers providing needed services in remote areas which will inevitably require the administration of licenses.
Councillor Day proposed that the proposed fees be approved. This was seconded by Councillor Tayler.
RESOLVED: To approve the licence fees in respect of Hackney Carriage, Private Hire and Operator Licences with effect from 1 April 2021.
The motion was carried 6 for, 1 against and 3 abstentions.