To consider the report of the Senior Licensing Officer.
Consideration was given to the report of the Senior Licensing Officer.
The Team Manager – Trading Standards and Licensing informed that the report detailed the ‘Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards’ document and the Welsh Government’s ‘Guide to Harmonisation of Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing in Wales’. A copy of the aforementioned documents was provided in the appendices. The Team Manager also stated that the report sought approval for a change to the Authority’s Policy Relating to Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licences to allow for 6 monthly Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks to take place.
The Team Leader further spoke to the report and outlined the key points. The Team Leader assured the Committee that the Authority was already implementing most of the recommendations and a working group which had been set up across Wales to further their implementation in a consistent manner across Wales. In terms of costs to licence holders it was reported that at present the Council expected licensed drivers to obtain an Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Services report (DBS) every three years at the licence holders expense of £50. The Standards suggested that these checks should be carried out every six months and that this is therefore best achieved if the licence holder signs up to the DBS Update Service.
This enabled a rolling programme to be implemented which allowed the Council to check records without the need for the licence holder to make a new application. The costs to the licence holder for the new system was £13 per year. This eventually would result in a small saving to the licence holder and the benefit to the Council would be that records could be checked instantly.
The Team Manager – Trading Standards and Licensing referred the Committee to the Option 1 which was the preferred option and advised that further reports would be presented to the Committee if and when there were further changes proposed via the working group or proposed policy changes. It was added that informal consultation had been undertaken with the taxi trade’s association in Blaenau Gwent and no significant issues of concern had been identified, therefore it was felt that there was no need to further consult at this point in time on the proposal before the Committee. Further consultation with the trade would occur as appropriate on other changes, as necessary.
At this juncture the Chair invited questions from Members.
A Member felt that once the new system was up and running it gave the larger operators the added safeguard that a driver, if convicted would be identified and reported accordingly.
Another Member welcomed the report and felt that it gave additional assurances which was paramount for the safety of the public. The Member asked if there had been any sexual assaults reported in Blaenau Gwent as there had been in Manchester and Merseyside. It was confirmed that Officers were not aware of any similar incidents reported in Blaenau Gwent.
In response to a
question raised in relation to adequate staff to cover the
additional work, it was informed that at present the Licensing Team
consisted of 4 members of staff. Although, some staff worked
reduced hours, during the recent months all four staff had been
37 hours due to extra work related to the pandemic.
The Team Manager felt that there was no need for additional resources as the work would be absorbed in the current staffing levels.
A Member raised concerns around the lack of a standardised dress code for Blaenau Gwent and welcomed the comments in the report. The Member felt that if taxi drivers wore standard dress code it would enable customers to recognise them easily.
The Team Member concurred with the comments and advised that it was a matter to be discussed at the working party. The Senior Licensing Officer added that although the Authority does not have a formal dress code there was certain items of clothing that were not acceptable. There were certain points from Welsh Government document that the Authority could consider to be added in terms of a dress code.
Upon a vote being taken, it was unanimously
RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the adoption of the DBS requirements of the Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards be approved (Option 1), specifically with regard to:-
· The implementation of 6 monthly checks, commencing with immediate effect, on a rolling programme as and when renewals are due; and
· That the Authority’s Policy Relating to Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licences be amended accordingly and Members agreed to a full consultation