Taxi Liaison Group - 17/09/2007
At a MEETING of the TAXI LIAISON GROUP held at Dundee on 17th September, 2007.
DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVES
Lord Provost John R LETFORD
Bailie Roderick A J WALLACE
Elizabeth F FORDYCE
TAXI TRADE REPRESENTATIVES
David YOUNG, The Dundee Taxi Cab Company Ltd, trading as Dundee Taxi Cabs Company
George HARRIS, Tay Taxis
Graeme STEPHEN, Dundee Taxi Association
John CURRAN, Tele Taxis
Stuart MORRISON, 505050 Taxis
Erik THORESEN, Dundee Wheelchair Taxi Association
Chris ELDER, Transport and General Workers' Union
TAYSIDE POLICE REPRESENTATIVES
Lorna ROBBIE, Tayside Police (Chief Inspector)
Bryan COLEMAN, Tayside Police (Sergeant)
Alec SELFRIDGE, Tayside Police (Constable)
Patricia McILQUHAM, Depute Chief Executive (Support Services)
Stuart GALLOWAY, Principal General Services Officer
Brian WOODCOCK, Senior Solicitor, Licensing
Alan LEWIS, Planning and Transportation
Mark DEVINE, Planning and Transportation
Lord Provost John R LETFORD, Convener, in the Chair.
Apologies were submitted on behalf of Councillor Laurie Bidwell.
I MINUTE OF PREVIOUS MEETING
The minute of meeting held on 13th September, 2007 was submitted and noted for information and record purposes.
II INTRODUCTIONS - BACKGROUND
The Lord Provost opened the meeting and expressed his disappointment at the actions taken by members of the Taxi Trade since the last meeting of the Taxi Liaison Group and the atmosphere that this had generated within the City and the impression given to members of the public by representatives of the Trade through media organisations.
The Lord Provost referred to the document submitted by Mr Stewart Hosie, MP on behalf of the DTA, DWTA and the T&G outlining the thirteen points of concern which their members wanted to raise with the Taxi Liaison Group and that, as requested, each of these points had been answered jointly by the City Council and Tayside Police and that this paper would be presented to the meeting and would be issued to all taxi operators and taxi drivers within Dundee and be made available to members of the public.
The Lord Provost indicated that he would welcome the views of all members of the Group including Trade Representatives on the current situation and the matters raised by the Trade which they had indicated they would wish to be considered at the meeting. Thereafter, Bailie Roderick A J Wallace expressed his support for the position taken by the Lord Provost and his disappointment about the situation. Bailie Wallace expressed his concern that members of the Trade, whilst putting forward their views to the national media about taxi matters, chose to slight Dundee and paint a negative image of the City to what would be a national audience. Bailie Wallace reminded the Group of the progress and achievements which had been realised by the City of Dundee as a whole.
Councillor Elizabeth Fordyce agreed with the sentiments expressed and indicated that she found it hard to comprehend that threats and protests were ongoing whilst it was known that notice had been given publicly that solutions would be sought at the meeting of the Taxi Liaison Group which had existed for many years as the forum for discussion between the Taxi Trade, City Council and Tayside Police.
Councillor Helen Dick expressed her concern about the possible detrimental effect action taken by the Trade could have on the City and welcomed the document prepared in answer to the thirteen points raised by the Trade which would form the basis of constructive discussion at the meeting.
George Harris, on behalf of Tay Taxis, advised the Group that his organisation did not support the action taken by members of the Trade.
David Young of 203020 expressed sympathy with drivers and gave the view that action taken may be representative of a minority group of people. Mr Young welcomed the proposal that the position statement in relation to the points of concern raised through Stewart Hosie MP be issued to operators and drivers within Dundee and that as a result, this could offer the basis of a return to normal relations within the Trade.
Erik Thoresen advised the Group that the Trade Representatives on the Group regularly advised the Trade on matters and gave them information on a regular basis. He also expressed the view that taxi drivers should represent taxi drivers and that the Council had refused to act on issues. Mr Thoresen indicated that the Trade had numerous complaints against Tayside Police and that their members had given them a mandate for strike action and that they would advise the media of the facts. Mr Thoresen also expressed the view that the Trade should not have any external interference from the City Council or Tayside Police and that consultation with the City Council was not to their benefit and that regulations and laws were being used against the Trade.
Chris Elder expressed the view that it was the responsibility of the Council to canvass the Trade to get their views.
Graeme Stephen reported that he had received a hand delivered letter from Tayside Police on Monday, 15th October and indicated that the Trade would be making complaints about Tayside Police, in particular, their inaction to prosecute Private Hire Vehicles picking up passengers in the street. He explained that the national organisation of the DTA were expressing concern to him about the operation of the law in Dundee and that if operations continued the way they were, they would cascade this throughout Scotland.
Patricia McIlquham referred to the minute of meeting of 13th September, 2007 and outlined again the law in relation to the operation of Private Hire Vehicles and the complaints process for both the Council and Tayside Police.
In reply to questions from Graeme Stephen, Stuart Galloway advised the Group that there were currently 163 Private Hire Vehicles in operation in Dundee and that to date no action had been required to be taken by the Council in relation to the operation of these by licence holders. Graeme Stephen challenged this position, following which Stuart Galloway advised him that, should he have evidence of unlicensed activity, he should submit a complaint to the relevant authorities.
Chief Inspector Lorna Robbie reported that in order for the Police to make formal investigations that they required written complaints and welcomed submissions from the Trade, in particular, evidence which could be substantiated by witnesses. Chief Inspector Robbie also took the opportunity to express her concerns about unsubstantiated complaints made by Trade representatives through the media against Tayside Police and urged those representatives who said they had complaints to make these known to Tayside Police to allow them to be investigated as to date no complaint had been received.
III ITEMS PLACED ON THE AGENDA BY STEWART HOSIE MP ON BEHALF OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE DTA, T&G AND THE DWTA - JOINTRESPONSE FROM DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL AND TAYSIDE POLICE TO ISSUES OF CONCERN
The Lord Provost then referred to the thirteen points which the Trade had placed on the agenda through their representative Stewart Hosie MP and tabled a document which had been prepared by Dundee City Council and Tayside Police in answer to each of the points which had been raised to facilitate discussion at the meeting. A copy of the response is attached to this minute as an Appendix.
The Lord Provost advised the Trade Representatives that he appreciated that they would require time to look over the document before discussing the contents. Thereafter, the Lord Provost suggested that the Trade Representatives either took the opportunity to have an adjournment for a period of time to allow them to discuss the content amongst themselves; take the document away with them and discuss content with their members and advise the Council of any issues not covered or clarification required, or alternatively go through the content point by point. The Lord Provost also suggested to the Trade Representatives that in his view, they may find it worthwhile taking legal advice before taking further actions outwith the meeting.
The Lord Provost also expressed the view that in light of the issues they had placed on the agenda and statements made in the media, that their issues of concern were with the existence of Private Hire companies and one, in particular, namely 203020, whereupon the representatives of the DTA, DWTA, T&G and Tele Taxis made protest about the merits of the Taxi Liaison Group as a discussion forum and ended their participation in the meeting abruptly and vacated the Chamber.
Thereafter, Stuart Galloway took the remaining members of the Trade through each of the points on the agenda with reference to the response from the Police and the Council. Reference was made to the minute of the previous meeting, wherein David Young gave an undertaking that should it be established that planning permission was required for the use of the site, he would cease activities immediately.
Patricia McIlquham stated that a letter had been sent by the Planning Officer stipulating that consent was required. Stuart Galloway had also sent two letters, the second of which was hand delivered. Mr Young said he had not received any of the three letters. He also stated that what he had said at the previous meeting related only to the temporary use of the site and that he now had a lease and was to be submitting a planning application for this and ancillary functions. He would not now cease the use of the site.
Stuart Morrison of 505050 Taxis referred to an enquiry he had submitted to the City Council in relation to taxi operations. Mr Morrison noted the content of the response which had been issued by the Council on the matter and that delay in receipt may have been due to the recent postal strike.
Mr Morrison also indicated that it had been worthwhile to remain at the meeting as the information provided had helped to counter a number of rumours which had been circulating within the Trade.
The Group were reminded that copy of the joint response would be issued to all taxi operators and taxi drivers in Dundee so that they could be appraised of the issues raised and the position of the City Council and Tayside Police on each matter presented by the Trade.
The Lord Provost thanked everyone for their attendance, in particular, the members of the Trade who had remained throughout the course of discussions and closed the meeting.
Lord Provost John R LETFORD, Convener.
TAXI LIAISON MEETING - 17TH OCTOBER, 2007
RESPONSE FROM DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL AND TAYSIDE POLICE
TO THE QUERIES RAISED BY THE TAXI TRADE
1 THAT ALL LICENCE APPLICATIONS ARE NOT CURRENTLY VETTED THROUGH DISCLOSURE SCOTLAND
The position has been made clear to the Trade on this both at Taxi Liaison Group meetings and at a meeting with the Chief Executive. The position is that Tayside Police currently carry out a vetting process on all applicants for Taxi Driver's Licences and Taxi Licences. This process is an enhanced check and goes into far more detail than that carried out by Disclosure Scotland.
The check carried out by Tayside Police is included in the fee for the licence, whereas applicants would be charged an additional fee of 20 if the checks were carried out through Disclosure Scotland.
In addition, police officers continue to monitor applicants throughout the process and ensure that the Licensing Committee members have access to the most current information available. This would not happen through Disclosure Scotland.
2 THAT THERE SHOULD BE A RETURN TO RANDOM TESTING OF ALL APPLICANTS' STREET KNOWLEDGE
If random testing took place, this was many years ago. The current process has been in place for at least the last seven years. In place, at present, is a system where there are in excess of 300 different permutations of questions. It is far more structured and relevant than previous tests.
A return to random testing would not be problematical, but it is viewed as a retrograde step and it is also unclear what benefits would be achieved by this move.
3 THAT THERE ARE CONCERNS ABOUT THE PERFORMANCE OF THE CABS ENFORCEMENT UNIT
Concerns about the performance of the Cabs Enforcement Officers cannot be addressed until it is clear what those concerns are. At the meeting of the Taxi Liaison Group on 13th September, 2007, the Tayside Police representative requested that complaints or concerns were made known to the Police by members of the Trade. No such complaints or concerns had been raised either at that meeting or subsequently and as such a response cannot be provided.
It is disappointing that the Taxi Associations continue to raise concerns about the performance of the Cabs Enforcement Unit through the media but there have been no specific allegations which would allow a detailed response. The Deputy Chief Constable has written to the lead individuals in each of the Associations inviting them to make a complaint so that an investigation may be carried out.
4 THAT THERE IS A CONCERN OF THE USE OF ADVERTISING AND DISTINGUISHING LOGOS ON PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLES (IN RELATION TO THE CIVIC GOVERNMENT (SCOTLAND) ACT 1982)
Section 14 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 provides that "there shall not be displayed on or in a private hire car, any word, sign, notice, mark, illumination or other feature which may suggest that the vehicle is available for hire as a taxi". In order to comply with this requirement, The Dundee Taxi Cab Company do not have the full company name on the door of their vehicles and instead simply the company initials "DTCC" are displayed. In addition, the company logo with the number "203020" is displayed on the side of the car in accordance with the Committee's current practice of allowing private hire car operators to display their own telephone number. This is entirely in accordance with SDD Circular 6/1983 which provides that "the Secretary of State regards basic advertisements that a vehicle is a taxi or private hire car - such as displays of the name of the firm and its telephone number - as generally being in the public interest, because it permits ready identification".
5 THAT ALL LICENCE APPLICATIONS SHOULD BE PROPERLY PUBLICISED TO ALLOW FOR OBJECTIONS TO BE MADE IF APPROPRIATE
The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 requires that public notice be given in respect of all applications. There is, however, no requirement to advertise applications not involving premises in the press. On the introduction of the Act, the Council (similar to other Councils in Scotland) agreed that applications involving premises would be advertised in the local press and that all other applications would be placed in a public register which the public could inspect.
Trade representatives are well aware of the procedures, as they have lodged numerous objections to applications for taxi licences over the past six years. The perception seems to be this time that the applications for taxi licences lodged by 203020 were not dealt with in the usual manner. These applications were lodged on 12th July, placed in the public register the same day and dealt with by the Committee on 16th August. Trade representatives did not attend at the Council offices during this period to check the register. Had they done so, they would have been in a position to object.
6 THAT MORE USE SHOULD BE MADE OF CCTV CAMERAS TO IDENTIFY INFRINGEMENTS INCLUDING ALLEGATIONS OF PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLES PICKING UP IN THE STREET
CCTV is primarily in place as a crime deterrent/detection system. It monitors the public space for the benefit of all who live, work and visit the City. It is not a tool to be used lightly. The potential backlash from the general public if it was found that CCTV was being used to monitor private hire vehicles and not crime would rightly be justified.
Any CCTV footage of persons stopping vehicles in the street would be of limited value in any event.
Tayside Police do not intend to give any directive to the CCTV operators to undertake this course of action.
7 THAT CONCERNS ABOUT TOUTING ARE FULLY INVESTIGATED
Touting means any person who (a) in a public place (i) touts for the purpose of selling or advertising anything or otherwise obtaining custom so as to give any other person reasonable cause for annoyance; or (ii) importunes any other person for that purpose so as to give that, or any other person reasonable cause for annoyance; and (b) fails to desist when required to do so by a constable in uniform, shall be guilty of an offence. Section 55 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 refers.
Public place means any place (whether a thoroughfare or not) to which the public have unrestricted access and includes the doorways and entrances of premises abutting on any such place. If the members of staff of The Dundee Taxi Cab Company are offering their services from either within Fat Sam's or the private parking area, they are not in a public place. In addition, if no constable in uniform has asked anyone to stop touting, then no offence has been committed.
In the circumstances pertaining to the situation in Dundee, the bookings for the Private Hire vehicles have been made through a third party (namely Fat Sam's Nightclub). The Dundee Taxi Cab Company Limited have a written contract with that company agreeing to provide transport for their customers.
8 THERE ARE CONCERNS ABOUT BADGE COSTS INCREASES
The Trade reps had requested that an additional Cabs Enforcement Officer be appointed. It was agreed that this would be looked into and the Trade were advised that there would be cost implications to the Trade as the Council had a legal duty to recover its costs.
At a meeting of the Taxi Liaison Group on 24th August, 2006, the Trade reps were advised of the costs and given options as to how they could be recovered.
At the suggestion of the Trade, it was agreed that Taxi Operators' Licences be increased by 25 and drivers by 50. This was subsequently approved by the Licensing Committee on 7th September, 2006.
9 THAT THE LOCATION OF TAXI RANKS IS REVIEWED
The responsibility for providing and maintaining taxi ranks rests with the Planning and Transportation Department. Any requests to review the provision of ranks or spaces within Dundee City would require a specific request from either the taxi trade or the Taxi Liaison Group. The Planning and Transportation Department are happy to evaluate any such requests and, if deemed appropriate, the costs would require to be met from the Trade.
10 CONFUSION OVER THE TAXICARD SCHEME
We are unaware of any major confusion on the part of the scheme clients.
There is, however, an underlying dissatisfaction by taxi drivers/operators who wish to participate in the full scheme, but are unable to do so as they have not installed the smartcard readers within their vehicles to allow interaction with the Smartcard based Taxicard scheme.
We are unable to return to a paper based voucher scheme as high levels of fraud were identified in the past and this formed the basis of why Smartcard technology was introduced in October 2003.
The Wheelchair Taxicard scheme was introduced on 1st September, 2004 to permit taxicard clients, who require to travel in their wheelchair, the facility to travel in all wheelchair accessible taxis within the City. It is apparent from the vouchers received that whilst accessible taxis working from Taxi Offices are participating in the scheme, very few street car accessible taxis are.
Notwithstanding the above, door to door transport provision is an important element of the emerging Tayside and Central Scotland Transport Partnership's (TACTRAN) Regional Transport Strategy. This includes the longer term provision of Taxicard and alternatives such as Demand Responsive Transport and Community Transport. Dundee City Council as a constituent member of TACTRAN is actively encouraging a long term solution to the needs of those reliant on door to door transport provision.
11 MEMBERSHIP OF TAXI LIAISON GROUP
It is believed that the Trade is concerned that The Dundee Taxi Cab Company is represented by Mr Young who does not hold any licences in his own name and have expressed the view that only licence holders should attend these meetings.
In January 2006, the Council reviewed the membership following several unruly and unproductive meetings. The Group now comprises taxi offices and Trade organisations each with one representative on the Group. When deciding the membership, the Committee took the view that it was up to the taxi offices concerned to decide who would represent them. The Dundee Taxi Cab Company chose Mr Young.
12 PRIVATE HIRE CAR BOOKINGS
Section 23 of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 defines a "taxi" as "a hire car which is engaged, by arrangements made in a public place between the person to be conveyed in it (or a person acting on his behalf) and its driver for a journey beginning there and then" and "private hire car" means "a hire car other than a taxi" as just described. Accordingly, a private hire car may operate in any manner which does not bring it within the aforementioned definition of "taxi". In other words, the one thing which a private hire car is specifically prohibited from doing is becoming involved in an arrangement made in a public place between the customer and the driver for a journey beginning there and then. It is important to note that the Act does not prescribe how the arrangements for hire of a private hire car are to be carried out in practice. In particular, nowhere is there any mention made of this having to be done by telephone. As mentioned earlier under paragraph 7 above, the bookings for the private hire vehicles in the situation which is causing concern amongst the taxi trade outside Fat Sam's Nightclub have been made through the nightclub itself and The Dundee Taxi Cab Company Limited have a written contract with the nightclub in this regard. However, it would be a clear breach of the terms of Section 23 of the 1982 Act if patrons of other establishments apart from Fat Sam's sought to make use of the private hire vehicles parked there.
13 THAT THERE IS CONCERN ABOUT THE TOTAL NUMBER OF LICENCES IN THE CITY
The Council's policy is that Taxi Licences will only be granted subject to a condition that a European whole volume type accessible vehicle is placed on service as a taxi. At the time, the policy was introduced in November 2003, vehicles which had low volume type approval as a minimum were also permitted. This changed to whole volume type approval as a result of a Taxi Liaison meeting in March 2005 when agreement was reached with the Trade that the vehicle specification would be amended and that we would wait until such time as guidance was obtained from the Scottish Executive before looking at the policy again. Guidance is still awaited.
The number of taxis was expected to rise as new applications were made but there was also an expectation that there would be a peak and then a levelling off as the market found its own level. This is exactly what has occurred. The numbers peaked in 2005 with 652 taxis and there are now 559 taxis. The number of Private Hire Car licences has however increased and there are currently 163 such licences (this figure includes vehicles used solely for airport transfers). The Council do not have any powers in terms of the Act to restrict the number of Private Hire Car licences.
Of the 559 taxis, 191 are accessible. Prior to the policy change in 2003, only six out of 507 taxis were accessible. At that time this placed the Council in the second bottom position in a league table of accessible taxis in the UK. Whilst the provision has increased, we still receive complaints from disabled people that they are being refused to be taken or have to wait considerably longer than able bodied persons and we require to address this inequality.
The Council feels that the number of taxis can be controlled more effectively by restricting the quality of vehicle to be placed on service rather than fixing an arbitrary number of licences to be issued.
A request for a moratorium on the issue of taxi licences has been made. The Council cannot legally do this as taxi licences can only be limited on the grounds that there are too many if there is evidence to that effect. This would require a survey to be carried out which would identify a maximum number as to when demand had been met. The timescale for such a survey being to hand would be between nine months and one year. In addition, the survey would have to be updated on a regular basis and, at the end of the day, any applicants who were refused licences could still appeal to the Sheriff and if the Sheriff took the view that the survey and the updating procedure was not sufficient then he may grant the licences which would basically have the effect of opening the City which is not in anyone's interests. The other factor which must be taken into consideration is the fact that there are currently three "classes" of taxi, namely saloon car, low volume type and whole volume type. Any survey and subsequent change of policy would require to regularise this position, namely, that all taxis would have to be accessible to as many groups of disabled people as possible.
None of the foregoing could be achieved overnight and would require to be the subject of lengthy consultation with all interested parties.
In conclusion, it can be seen that whilst the number of taxis is being controlled by the imposition of the whole volume vehicle requirement, the continuing concern of apparent discrimination against disabled persons require to be addressed.
17th October, 2007