Taxi Liaison Group - 22/12/2008
At a MEETING of the TAXI LIAISON GROUP held at Dundee on 22nd December, 2008.
DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVES
Lord Provost John R LETFORD
Bailie Roderick A J WALLACE
Councillor Tom FERGUSON
Councillor Elizabeth FORDYCE
Councillor Helen DICK
Councillor David BOWES
TAXI TRADE REPRESENTATIVES
Graeme STEPHEN, Dundee Taxi Association
John CURRAN, Tele Taxis
Erik THORESEN, Dundee Wheelchair Taxi Association
Chris ELDER, Transport and General Workers' Union
Ian WHITTON, Handy Taxis
TAYSIDE POLICE REPRESENTATIVES
Alexander BRODIE (Inspector)
Bryan COLEMAN (Sergeant)
Stuart GALLOWAY, Principal General Services Officer
Brian WOODCOCK, Senior Solicitor, Licensing
Mark DEVINE, Planning and Transport
Neil GELLATLY, Planning and Transport
Ian McCANDLESS, Dundee Contract Services
Lord Provost John R LETFORD, Convener, in the Chair.
I CHAIRS REMARKS
The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting. In relation to comments made in the press about operations carried out by Tayside Police in relation to unlicensed activity by elements of the taxi trade, the Chair voiced his disappointment that although various people, including taxi drivers, may make complaints to the Council and Tayside Police about alleged illegal activity that they did not want to become personally involved and were unwilling to make personal statements or, for that matter, attend any further legal proceedings such as that required if the matter was submitted to court. The Chair reminded the Group that there was a complaints procedure operated by Tayside Police and that anyone with a complaint should use this process.
The Chair also advised the Group that Tay Taxis and 203020 had submitted their resignations as members of the Group. The Chair expressed his thanks for the contribution that both companies had made to the work of the Group over the years.
II MINUTE OF MEETING HELD ON 10TH JUNE, 2008
The minute of meeting held on 10th June, 2008 was submitted and noted for information and record purposes.
III TAXI MATTERS (TRANSPORTATION ISSUES)
There was submitted a report by Neil Gellatly, Acting Assistant Head of Transportation which outlined the following matters which had previously been tasked to the Department to examine and report back to the meeting of the Group.
(a) COMMERCIAL STREET AT MURRAYGATE
The issue of taxis/private hire cars gaining unrestricted access had been raised on several occasions and declined on the basis of the need to minimise traffic movements during the busy daytime periods when large numbers of pedestrians crossed over Commercial Street.
No change was proposed and it was reported that consideration may have to be given to extending restriction to Sundays as a result of increasing importance of Sunday trading. Concerns of trade however would be put to a meeting of the Traffic Co-ordinating Group. Signage would also be erected for the benefit of pedestrians.
There had been several investigations into signage with potential solutions identified ie information totems featuring taxi sign and indicative fare details etc. This had not progressed as, aside from legal signing and lining (ie Taxi Clearway Orders), there was no funding or departmental responsibility to provide taxi infrastructure. If funding was available, Departments could take forward within three to six months with Transport/Licensing staff able to maintain information thereon.
(c) TRAFFIC LIGHT FAULT - ACCESS TO TRAIN STATION, RIVERSIDE
The Group noted that no fault was found and that the right turn filter was deliberately inhibited during peak periods.
Any future concerns about traffic signals were to be raised directly with Urban Traffic Control Team on 01382 433289.
(d) TAXI RANKS
There were occasional direct approaches regarding Taxi Rank provision to Transport staff. It was reported that it may be more constructive/focussed to have a small short life working group look at this ongoing issue.
The Group agreed that an Officer Group be convened in the New Year to examine this.
(e) DECRIMINALISED PARKING ENFORCEMENT (DPE)
There was likely to be increased evening activity by DPE staff across the City from the New Year. Bus stops were to be rigorously enforced as the clearway was essential for safe boarding and alighting. Any vehicles stopping in bus stops between 7.00 am - 11.00 pm would be issued with a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN).
The Group agreed that the Licensing Committee should be advised of any parking infringements in terms of taxis using bus stops as rank overflow (including observations where the vehicle has driven off prior to a PCN being issued).
IV DUNDEE WHEELCHAIR TAXI ASSOCIATION - ERIK THORESEN
The following matters were raised by Erik Thoresen of the DWTA.
(a) REPORT ON CONSULTATION PROGRESS
Brian Woodcock, Senior Solicitor, Licensing, advised the Taxi Liaison Group that National Guidance was due to be issued on such matters which would govern decisions on the type of vehicles operating as taxis and that no further action would be required by the Council in the intervening period. It was further noted that there were a number of court actions also pending which may have a bearing on legislation in this respect.
(b) DISCRIMINATION AGAINST DISABLED PEOPLE
The view was expressed that there were not enough taxis in service to provide for passengers with disabilities. In reply, Graeme Stephen of the Dundee Taxi Association, expressed opinion that members of his association were providing a service to people with disabilities on a daily basis.
(c) DISCRIMINATION AGAINST NEW TAXI OPERATORS
The cost of putting in service a new taxi for the purpose of wheelchair access was highlighted and it was considered that this may discriminate against new taxi operators in comparison to those who only required to place in service a saloon car.
The Legal Adviser advised the Group that this point was related to the previous two and that these were part of the ongoing consultation process and indeed would be addressed in the guides being provided on a national level by the Scottish Government.
(d) EXTRA STAFF FOR CAB ENFORCEMENT UNIT
Opinion was expressed that there should be more Cabs Enforcement Officers on duty. In reply, Inspector Brodie explained to the Group how the unit operated currently and that the service was under review to meet demands. The Inspector also advised the Group that he was very aware of the concerns being expressed by the taxi fraternity.
Graeme Stephen further advised the Inspector of the concerns of his members in relation to alleged illegal activity by private hire drivers and operators and that the Taxi Federation had taken this up and the services of an Investigative Reporter had been secured to support their case.
The Lord Provost voiced his disappointment that although he would be contacted by members of the taxi trade advising of instances of illegal activity, it was very often the case that the complainer would withdraw their complaints when contacted by the Police or before any formal action could be taken.
Mr Stephen further voiced his concerns of recent policing operation in Dundee and his perception of how that operation had been carried out which led to a report in the press.
The Police Inspector advised the Group that the comments which had been made in the press were entirely inaccurate and intimated that Mr Stephen should have made contact with him on that matter and he would have outlined how that particular operation had been carried out which was completely different to the version of events which had been portrayed to the press by Mr Stephen.
The Lord Provost expressed the opinion to the Group that on behalf of the Licensing Committee and Dundee City Council they had every confidence in the Police and the particular operations that had been carried out. In relation to the Cabs Enforcement Unit, and certainly if anyone felt they had a problem with any matter relating to its operation, they would make contact with the Police direct.
In reply, Chris Elder admitted that perhaps there had been a lack of communication between the taxi fraternity and Tayside Police in the past and that this was something they would look to build on in the future.
Following enquiry from Ian Whitton, it was noted that Tayside Police were reviewing use of barriers and road closures at certain points in the evening and early morning within the vicinity of Fat Sams.
(e) HIRED PLATES
Concern was raised about individuals who may be hiring plates and the estimated number of hired plates which were in circulation and the investigation process.
In reply, the Lord Provost said that the Licensing Committee were well aware of many occasions and investigative processes operated by Tayside Police in relation to hired plates which have subsequently led to reports being submitted to the Licensing Committee for consideration.
Further to this, Tayside Police confirmed that there were a number of cases ongoing at present which were currently being investigated and may result in reports being submitted to the Licensing Committee.
Graeme Stephen expressed the opinion that hiring of plates was not solely restricted to saloon car operators but there were wheelchair taxi operators hiring plates also. Mr Stephen said he would be happy to talk to Tayside Police and to share information that he had with them to allow them to continue investigations.
(f) PRIVATE HIRE CARS PICKING UP IN THE STREETS
The Group noted that this matter had been covered in a previous item.
(g) OUT OF TOWN TAXIS WORKING IN DUNDEE
The situation in relation to how an out of town taxi may operate outwith its area was explained following the concerns expressed by Erik Thoresen. Graeme Stephen wished to highlight that Tayside Police Officers within Dundee should be vigilant should they see an out of town taxi in Dundee which appeared to be plying for hire.
The Lord Provost further indicated that it may be worthwhile putting an article in the press about this particular issue to allow the public to be vigilant and to ensure that when they were using a taxi that it was licensed for the Dundee area.
(h) AGE RESTRICTIONS AND TESTS FOR PURPOSE-BUILT TAXIS
The Group noted concerns which were expressed about the age restrictions and tests for purpose-built taxis as the opinion was held that no other cars in the trade had the same age restriction placed upon them as those for TX2s which were purpose-built as taxis and as such, there was a proposal intimated that the annual test and age restriction should be removed from this particular category of vehicle.
(i) MEDICALS FOR DRIVERS
It was proposed it would benefit taxi drivers to be subject to more regular and further medical examination to ensure their continued fitness to transport members of the public.
In reply, Stuart Galloway advised that taxi drivers were currently subject to Group 2 legislation and that when any particular taxi driver reached the age of 45 he needed to provide a medical certificate of their fitness and be subject to medicals every three years from thereon but this was not currently enforced at renewal periods for taxi licence.
V DUNDEE TAXI ASSOCIATION AND TRANSPORT AND GENERAL WORKERS UNION
There was submitted a joint letter by the Dundee Taxi Association and Transport and General Workers' Union outlining a number of issues that they wish the Taxi Liaison Group to consider however, it was intimated that they wished to retract some of their submission in light of what Tayside Police had presented to the Group.
(a) Mr Stephen voiced opinion that the Cabs Enforcement Unit were not just there to enforce the law but also to help the trade with issues of mutual concern. In addition, they mentioned that they were concerned about the content and purpose of the wheelchair course which was currently being rolled out to all taxi drivers in Dundee and questioned the relevancy for operators and drivers of saloon cars. And, in addition, what qualification the Cabs Unit had to orchestrate and deliver this course.
In response, Stuart Galloway gave a background to this particular course and a lengthy consultation had been undertaken by the Cabs Unit with manufacturers and disabled groups in the development of this particular course prior to being rolled out to taxi drivers. Furthermore, Mark Devine mentioned that there had been a high number of complaints from people with disabilities in the way that they were being transferred to and from schools and that the particular system that had been developed in this course was an example of good practice. Mr Devine urged all taxi drivers and taxi operators to take part in the course as until they had been on the course they would not be in a position to comment on its worth and the benefits that they could have for their passengers and new custom in this respect.
Stuart Galloway explained that it was not just for taxis but all other parties involved in the transportation of anyone with a disability.
Inspector Brodie further explained that this course was good for Dundee and would be good for taxi drivers and that continued improvement of skills of licence holders and all other parties was of benefit to everyone. The Police had previously been concerned by a number of complaints from disabled persons in relation to their carriage and would welcome and encourage everyone to attend and not allow negative comments in the press to colour their opinion of the course as this would be completely unhelpful to all parties. In response to the question from a member of the trade, it was indicated that the course also covered the transport of children in buggies and also people operating scooters. The Police voiced their concern about the poor take up of seminars and put it to the members who were present that they should encourage their membership to take up the course so that the benefits could be realised for passengers with a disability and the wider community.
(b) TAXI OFFICES
Graeme Stephen indicated that another way of detecting private hire taxis picking up on the street without having been pre-booked may be found out through their central office where controllers should recognise that there had perhaps been a poor take up on jobs which had been received and a possible explanation for this would be that the drivers had been engaged by other means.
(c) TAXI RANKS
It was recognised that this item had been discussed at a previous item.
(d) COSTS OF COURT ACTIONS/EXPENDITURE FOR LICENCE FEES, TEST CENTRES AND CABS ENFORCEMENT OFFICE
Graeme Stephen questioned how much it cost for the garage at Contract Services to operate on an annual basis and the staff costs involved in this process. Mr Stephen referred to a case in Edinburgh whereby the licence fee was reduced as a result of potential profit being made to this particular service. Mr Stephen further stated that many of his members were of the opinion that they were paying too much for their licence. In response, Stuart Galloway advised that if they put the exact points they wish to have answered in a letter and itemise them that he would seek to provide a response in this regard.
(e) FARE STRUCTURE
Graeme Stephen questioned whether or not a formal decision could be taken allowing drivers to request that potential passengers provide them with a portion or full payment of the fare in advance in the interest of securing payment for any particular job where there may be doubt that the passenger was in a position to make a payment. In reply, Stuart Galloway reminded Mr Stephen this did not require any formal decision and it was purely an agreement between the driver and the passenger as to how any payment should be made and should they feel that they wish to have a passenger pay a portion of the full payment up front that must be a matter between them and the passenger.
(f) POLICE ACTION
Chris Elder questioned enforcement action taken as a result of Police exercises undertaken in relation to operation of private hire and limos and questioned why in respect of limousines that these were being reported to the Procurator Fiscal whereas private hire offences were being reported through the Licensing Committee. In parallel to this, Graeme Stephen referred to the content of the letter received from Stewart Stevenson MSP.
In reply, Inspector Brodie advised that following any offence having been committed or alleged to have been committed that a discussion take place with the Procurator Fiscal's Office as to how these would be reported. As the limousines which had been found to have committed an offence were not licensed, it would be proper for these to go through the Procurator Fiscal's Office. However, as the private hire vehicles had been licensed by the City Council, there was the wish by the Procurator Fiscal's Office for these to be reported through means of the Licensing Committee of the City Council. It was further noted that sanctions that could be placed by the Committee upon any particular licence such as a private hire could be potentially more stringent than those imposed by the Procurator Fiscal's Office whereby a standard fine of 500 may be imposed upon the individual whereas the Licensing Committee may enforce a suspension of the licence for a period of time up to and including the whole term of the licence.
Although Graeme Stephen noted that this was a preferred route for the Procurator Fiscal having considered the cases with the Police he intimated his wish that they should have been routed through the Procurator Fiscal's Office. In reply, Inspector Brodie asked for confirmation that should any taxi driver be in breach of their conditions that this would therefore be a criminal offence. The Legal Adviser confirmed that this would be the case and it was also intimated to Mr Stephen by Inspector Brodie that if his suggestion was adopted then should any of his members be in breach of any condition they too would need to be reported via the route of the Procurator Fiscal and not simply reported to a meeting of the Licensing Committee.
(g) REFORM STREET - ROAD WORKS
Graeme Stephen voiced concern about safety issues in relation to position of road works at Reform Street.
The Group noted that Neil Gellatly would refer this to the Safety Audit Team.
Lord Provost John R LETFORD, Convener.