The Council considered a report of the Corporate Director, Neighbourhood Services which detailed the outcome of the consultation exercise held with stakeholders relating to the regulation of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles licensed by the County Council and sought approval for the revision of the hackney carriage and private hire vehicle policy in relation to zoning, the regulation of hackney carriage numbers and colour policy (for copy see file of Minutes).
The Corporate Director, Neighbourhood Services detailed the present situation with regard to zoning arrangements and highlighted some of the key areas of the phased major consultation process that had taken place relating to zoning, limitation of taxi numbers and colour policy. He also summarised the options that were available to the Council. A detailed summary of responses from the countywide public consultation on these aspects were detailed in appendices 3 to 6 of the report. The countywide response to the consultation process from individual members of the licensed hackney carriage and private hire trade had been very low, however, there had been good representation from the licensed trade through the County and Area working groups. Some of the key statistics appeared to be more representative of the trade across the County. This also included the views of Durham Constabulary who recommended and support the removal of the seven taxi zones and the implementation of one single taxi zone and the concurrent removal of the limitations on hackney carriage numbers in Durham City and Chester-le-Street. The Council’s General Licensing Committee had also considered the report and had received representations by letter and in person and those views had all been taken into account and the policy had been amended in part as a result views received.
The Corporate Director, Neighbourhood Services added that it was extremely important to take into account advice by governmental organisations such as the Department of Transport who advised that a limit on taxi numbers would be unlikely to be in the best interest of consumers and the Office of Fair Trading who considered that quantity regulation limits the number of taxis, reduces availability and lowers the quality of the service to the public. This had been one of the main focuses during the consultation and it was evident that there had been clear support to move to one zone.
In conclusion, the Corporate Director, Neighbourhood Services commented that everyone had been listened too and the Council would continue to work with the taxi trade. The Corporate Director informed the Council that there were issues with taxi ranks and stated that should the report be agreed it would not come into effect until 31 August, which would give the Council ample time to look at bus lanes and taxi ranks that would help transport people away from city centres at peak times.
Councillor Young commented that the consultation had been the most extensive consultation during his time with the Council and whilst there would always be an element of people who wouldn’t agree, the views and comments of all groups had been taken into account and he was satisfied that the Council was acting in the best interests in the people of County Durham. Like all policies, the Council would listen and consider change if necessary.
Councillor Carr, Chairman of the Licensing Committee thanked all officers and licensing committee members for their valued input throughout the process.
Councillor Wilkes commented that the Council should be applauded on the exercise it had undertaken, commenting that there had a lot of Member involvement throughout, in what had been a very difficult task. Councillor Wilkes also added his support behind the review of bus lanes and taxi ranks.
It was Moved by Councillor B Young, Seconded by Councillor C Carr and
That the Council approve:
(i) Option A as detailed in paragraph 13 - to remove the existing seven zones across the County and deregulation of existing hackney carriage licence limitations, to be effective from midnight on the 31st August 2011; and
The introduction of a
colour requirement in respect of vehicles submitted for licensing
as hackney carriage vehicles or private hire vehicles as
hackney carriage vehicles shall be white;
private hire vehicles shall be any colour other
than white or a colour that could be mistaken for white, for
example cream or ivory;
that the colour
requirement for hackney carriage and private hire vehicles shall
apply from the 1st April 2011 to all new applications for a vehicle
licence. It shall not apply on the renewal of an existing vehicle
licence but only when that vehicle is replaced. Nor shall the
colour policy apply to a vehicle licensed or provided for a maximum
period of two months on a temporary basis to substitute for an
owner's existing licensed vehicle that cannot be used as a result
of an accident or breakdown; and
(v) that this policy will apply to all licensed vehicles including purpose built vehicles and minibuses, but will not apply to any special vehicles as defined within the policy which will be exempt from any colour requirement.