Taxi Liaison Group - 11/03/2015

At a MEETING of the TAXI LIAISON GROUP held at Dundee on 11th March, 2015.

 

Present:-

 

DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL OFFICER REPRESENTATIVES

 

Stuart GALLOWAY, Principal General Services Officer, Support Services Department

Brian WOODCOCK, Senior Solicitor, Licensing, Support Services Department

Neil GELLATLY, City Development Department

Mark DEVINE, City Development Department

Gerry CONNOLLY, City Development Department

Fraser CRICHTON, City Development Department

 

TAXI TRADE REPRESENTATIVES

 

Erik THORESEN, Dundee Hackney Association

David YOUNG, Dundee Private Hire (203020) Ltd

Graeme STEPHEN, Dundee Taxi Association

Wayne O'HARE, Dundee Taxi Ltd

Willie LEES, GMB

Doug INGLIS, Handy Taxis

John CURRAN, Tele Taxis

Chris ELDER, Unite the Union

 

POLICE SCOTLAND REPRESENTATIVES

 

Ian BETHWAY (Sergeant)

 

ALSO IN ATTENDANCE

 

Councillor David BOWES

Councillor Tom FERGUSON

 

Stuart GALLOWAY, in the Chair.

 

Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Doug Inglis, Handy Taxis.

 

l MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETINGS

 

The minutes of meetings of the Taxi Liaison Group held on 20th January, 2014, 17th February, 2014 and 26th May, 2014 were submitted and noted for information and record purposes.

 

II DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL

 

Items on agenda at request of Dundee City Council:-

 

(a) PROPOSALS FOR FINAL STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT OF TAXI LICENCE POLICY

 

Stuart Galloway reported that the first two stages of the Councils policy on the grant of Taxi Licences were:-

 

(i) the decision to seek to maintain a balanced taxi fleet made up, as far as practicable, of 60% wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) and 40% saloon cars (adopted 23/10/2012);

 

(ii) the re-imposition of the numerical limit based upon the significant unmet demand test contained in Section 10(3) of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982. This creates a presumption against the Committee granting any more licences until the number of vehicles falls below the limit of 611, whereupon a fresh full survey will be carried out to determine if that figure of 611 can still be relied upon as meeting the demand for taxis in Dundee (adopted 27/06/2013).

 

The final stage of the policy process covers issues such as the allocation of licences to enable the balance in different types of vehicles to be maintained, that such allocation of licences be fair and take account of elements in the previous policy whereby some operators were required to place more expensive vehicles on service and, finally, the general quality and operation of taxis and private hire cars going forward. Consideration has also been given to the developments in the field of electric vehicles. A move towards an electric taxi and private hire car fleet would be in accord with proposals for electric public transport vehicles being promoted at both UK and Scottish Government level and the city already has significant charging infrastructure to enable it to benefit from such a move. There is also a substantial financial assistance potentially available to taxi and private hire operators who are prepared to place electric vehicles on service and this was discussed at the meeting. To that end, the following proposals were submitted to the Group for initial discussion. It was intended that a full report would thereafter be put before the Licensing Committee to enable it to decide which (if any) of these proposals to adopt for the purposes of consultation. There would then be a further more formal consultation with all interested parties before any final policy is implemented.

 

LIST OF PROPOSALS

 

- it is not intended to seek to require existing saloon car operators to place a WAV on service or vice versa;

 

- the presumption against new licences being issued is continued until a fresh full survey shows that there is unmet demand for such licences;

 

- should any such licences become available they would be allocated as follows:-

 

- if a saloon car licence is identified as being required to maintain the 60/40 balance, this be open to applications from existing WAV operators based upon the length of time they have held a taxi licence for a WAV (any WAV licence vacancies would then be filled by anyone on a first come, first served basis);

 

- if a WAV is required to maintain the balance, then this be open to application from anyone on a first come, first served basis,

 

PROVIDED HOWEVER THAT ANY SUCH NEW LICENCE (FOR EITHER SALOON CAR OR WAV) WILL BE GRANTED ONLY IF THE APPLICANT IS PREPARED TO PLACE AN ELECTRIC VEHICLE ON SERVICE.

 

- existing saloon car operators be allowed to apply for saloon car taxi licences in corporate names if they are prepared to place an electric vehicle on service and surrender their existing licence;

 

- from a future date to be agreed, any replacement vehicles on both saloon and WAV taxi licences and also private hire operators licences to be electric;

 

- any new private hire operators licences to be granted for electric vehicles only.

 

Following discussion of the content of the Agenda Note and the proposals listed, the Group agreed:-

 

(i) to note that the number of taxi licences in Dundee were currently above the 611 limit and that the fuller picture may be realised by the end of May, 2015 following the process of renewals;

 

(ii) that the 60/40 split ratio was the policy of the Council and that details on the formulation of this policy and the background to being established were readily available through accessing the reports on the website of Dundee City Council;

 

(iii) air quality continued to be a factor for resolution and that the cab industry, in recognition of this factor, were continuing to make rapid developments in the use of electronic technology within vehicles as a replacement for petrol and diesel driver vehicles and that the taxi industry was actively encouraged to embrace this new technology towards making a better and improved environment for the citizens of Dundee and Scotland as a whole and providing the city as a more attractive destination for visitors in light of the Waterfront Development including the V & A Museum;

 

(iv) to note the benefits of electric vehicles as explained by Fraser Crichton of the Transportation Department, both from an operational, mechanical and financial point of view;

 

(v) that such electric vehicles may serve to reduce running costs both from the cost of the charge versus cost of fuelling and mechanical repair costs;

 

(vi) to note that funding was available to cities to lower emissions;

 

(vii) the continuing expansion of infrastructure to maintain effective service and operation of electric vehicles within the city and outwith the city; and

 

(viii) the benefits of bulk purchase rather than individual purchase should taxi operators seek to group together to make a group purchase approach to a particular manufacturer, and the potential savings that they may make by developing such a business approach.

 

The Group further agreed to note that Stuart Galloway would welcome feedback and ideas from any members of the Taxi Liaison Group on the issues discussed and proposed.

 

(b) TAXI DRIVER TRAINING

 

Stuart Galloway reported on the progress of taxi driver training within Dundee. The Group agreed:-

 

(i) to note that the Dundee College course had commenced on Friday, 6th March, 2015;

 

(ii) that Unite the Union had so far put 80 drivers through the training course initiated by themselves and a further 26 would be going through in April, 2015;

 

(iii) the advice of Dave Young that various taxi offices had met together and may produce a training course suitable for all taxi drivers within Dundee and that those drivers who did not attend would be put out of service by taxi offices and that discussion was ongoing with the Scottish Qualifications Agency towards certification of the single course;

 

(iv) that all taxi drivers were required to have completed their training prior to renewal of their licence in 2017;

 

(v) that the World Host module came into being following the Unite the Union course being established;

 

(vi) that Unite may incorporate World Host into their course;

 

(vii) that the GMB course was based on NVQ City and Guilds; and

 

(viii) to note that the content of any courses require to be submitted to the Taxi Liaison Group for approval prior to their implementation.

 

(c) CCTV IN TAXIS AND PRIVATE HIRE CARS

 

Stuart Galloway reported on current issues in relation to CCTV and private hire cars and, in particular, the number of instances that had been reported to the Licensing Committee predominantly from Police Scotland in relation to matters of alleged conduct of taxi drivers which had resulted in action requiring to be taken by the Licensing Committee which may have otherwise been easily resolved if those particular licence holders had had CCTV within their taxi vehicles. As such, it was reported that the Licensing Committee were examining the possibility of CCTV in taxis becoming a mandatory policy requirement.

 

Graeme Stephen reported that he had CCTV installed in his vehicle for the past 6? years and he explained the benefits that he had personally experienced as a result and the crime prevention and personal safety that this had given him as a result. Mr Stephen reported that on the basis of what he would normally expect the cost to be from those people who would evade the taxi fare to that of the cost of the maintenance of the CCTV system was negligible and that the installation could also be claimed against their tax which would then give you 22% reduction on the cost of the system. On the whole, Mr Stephen highlighted that this was a small price to pay for safety and security. It was reported that CCTV systems were continuing to advance their technology and cheaper systems may become available. There was currently only one system which was approved by the Council for installation within the vehicle and that each and every time any taxi licence holder wished to have CCTV installed they would have to approach the Council for approval. No subsidies were currently available from the Council through Safer Cities, the funds of which were fully committed. It was noted, however, that the funds which were provided by Safer Cities were significantly lower than those costs for installation of CCTV within vehicles. There were options to pay for monthly hire of a CCTV system or to pay for the system on its own. Bulk buy might be of benefit in reducing costs. Forward facing cameras were also available which could result in 15% reduction on a taxi insurance policy. Bulk buying of systems might be of benefit in reducing costs. The monetary requirement for installation of CCTV might also attract other companies to provide equipment and be in competition with each other. Dunfermline had mandatory CCTV and it was recognised that the crime rate within taxi vehicles had dropped by 92%. Mr Stephen reported that his vehicle also had a screen display within his vehicle which allowed passengers to be aware of what was being recorded and he had noted that this had had a dramatic difference in the behaviour of people travelling in his vehicle who may have otherwise potentially been disruptive.

 

The Group noted the position as outlined and that a tender process within Dundee City Council would be initiated through the Procurement Section which may generate significant savings and that a report would be submitted to the Committee and a further report would be submitted to the Liaison Group. The specification of the requirements of the CCTV system to be operated were particularly important and that the requirement to install CCTV within vehicles would be initiated over a period of time which had been established in due course.

 

The Group noted that consideration of this matter had been covered under Article II(a) of this minute.

 

III DUNDEE HACKNEY ASSOCIATION

 

Items on agenda at request of Dundee Hackney Association:-

 

(a) ELECTRIC WAVS

 

The Group noted that this item had been covered.

 

(b) TAXI SURVEYS

 

Eric Thoresen suggested that Napier University be given the opportunity to carry out the taxi survey for Dundee.

 

The Group noted that Halcrow had been a successful tenderer previously for this survey for which Napier had also submitted their tender and that as this was a three yearly process that Napier University would get a further opportunity to bid for this at the next survey time.

 

(c) CAB UNIT COSTS AND DUTIES

 

Eric Thoresen reported that it was considered that traffic police had been witnessed to be out in force up until Christmas time and questioned how this affected the Cab Unit's operations.

 

The Group noted that this particular operation had been a national operation and had not affected the individual operation of the Cabs Unit over Christmas. There was, however, a reduction in staffing within the Cabs Enforcement Unit at that time due to the personal circumstances of a member of staff who is not currently at work due to ill health. The Group further noted that by 30th March, 2015, all paperwork currently provided and processed by the Cabs Enforcement Unit would now be progressed by Contract Services and that the safety checks over Christmas were a national initiative for people to take taxis.

 

IV DUNDEE PRIVATE HIRE (203020) LTD

 

Items on agenda at request of Dundee Private Hire (203020) Ltd:-

 

(a) "At the last Liaison meeting, Mr Steven raised a very important question, "Whom do I (David Young) represent"? It may be long overdue, but who represents whom at these meetings, and when do they meet and discuss relevant topics with their members and or their drivers? As well as a list of our own drivers, I can help Graeme and Eric with theirs, not a very long couple of lists, but I do have their respective members in case they forget anyone!.

 

The Group noted the current membership of the Group and the rationale behind their representation.

 

(b) "Is there scope for an electric vehicle pick up point in or round the City Centre, perhaps the Seagate where the Nitrogen Dioxide emissions are three times higher than permissible levels. The existing taxi rank in the Seagate might be an option as it is only used by taxi drivers going to the 'bookies' and not the purpose it was designed for. The pick-up point can be well advertised and vehicles can be accessed via a call to our office or by, our soon to be launched, The Dundee Electric Vehicle App. There would be plenty signage and public information at the point, and going by the response so far to the electric vehicles it would be a great success.

 

The Group noted the position and the opportunity for investigation for other areas within the city of Dundee where charging facilities may be installed, including the Seagate area. Brian Woodcock advised that there may be a legal obstacle to having a private hire pick-up area since this may amount to an illegal rank.

 

V DUNDEE TAXI ASSOCIATION

 

Items on agenda at request of Dundee Taxi Association:-

 

(a) TAXI NUMBERS - SURVEY SPLIT

 

At the last Liaison meeting you asked for some ways of keeping taxi numbers with 60/40 split when survey numbers are reached would it be possible to put this proposal forward from the DTA.

 

When reaching the survey limit all taxi operators are given the opportunity of a company licence (Companies House). Although a few may not take this up but it would do a lot to keep the number and 60/40 split. A few licences could still come back in and a later survey could show more licences are required. If this was to be the case then we suggest any new licences should be wheelchair type and offered to private hire operators first. Any saloon licences required to keep the 60/40 split could come from w/c taxi licences. This could be seen as a progressive step up into the taxi trade just as I did some 30 years ago. Taxi driver, private hire operator, taxi operator.

 

The Group noted that proposals for company licences may be included in a future report to the Council.

 

(b) TAXI DRIVER AND PRIVATE HIRE DRIVERS - IDENTIFICATION

 

With CCTV footage now in room where the taxi knowledge test is done. We are fearful that more people will go for private hire badges and take a chance driving taxis. With no road tax disc required and disc holders plentiful, it could be helpful if two badges were issued with TAXI DRIVER and PRIVATE HIRE printed larger and more BOLD. One to be displayed by the in service driver in front windscreen. This would also help to prevent suspended drivers from operating as both badges would have to be handed in.

 

The Group noted that the provision of badges may become part of the service provided by Fraser Crichton of the City Development Department.

 

(c) COSTINGS

 

Without going to freedom of information as this costs the Council money, is it possible to have a breakdown since May, 2011, or as near to that as possible, of how much money has been taken in from taxi and private hire licences and badges and how much money has been distributed, eg total cost to run cab office, the cost of all taxi, private hire, licensing meetings, including Sub-Committee meetings, Council support services and any other costs involved to the taxi, private hire trade? This would assist me to answer questions often asked by DTA members.

 

The Group noted that Stuart Galloway would seek to provide costings as far back as he possibly could.

 

(d) TESTING OF VEHICLES - PERIOD OF TESTING

 

I ask again for the four monthly tests to be abolished as my members felt it would be unfair when Angus taxis start being tested in the same premises and the same testers testing them but the Dundee taxi gets four months and Angus taxi gets one year with both taxis the same age doing the same job and I am sure both taxis passed fit and safe to do the job. Could I also ask if we could have a small test fee reduction on six monthly tests when the meters don't have to be checked?

 

The Group noted that there were currently no proposals to alter the period of testings.

 

(e) SVQ COURSE

 

Would it be possible for the Council to put a notice in the public area of the taxi testing office advising of the SVQ course at Kingsway campus as there is one from Unite the Union there and would help make drivers aware of both courses.

 

The Group noted that arrangements would be made to advertise all current taxi driver training courses at the testing centre.

 

VI GMB

 

Items on agenda at request of GMB:-

 

(a) REGULAR MEETINGS

 

The Taxi Liaison Group appears to be called at the needs of the Council which can make planning for these meetings difficult. To ensure everyone has the chance to prepare and make suitable diary commitments can the date of the next meeting be agreed at the end of each meeting. We would expect a meeting at least quarterly (four a year) with the knowledge that if Council officials had something urgent that could not wait until the next meeting the current notice of two weeks would be suitable.

 

The Group noted that Stuart Galloway would examine the proposals and report back to a future meeting of the Group.

 

(b) ACCESSIBLE VEHICLE ONLY RANKS

 

To ensure compliance with the public sector equality duty and to assist towards the unfairness of the drivers of accessible vehicles, we believe that Dundee City Council should change the current taxi ranks at Ninewells Hospital and at Dundee Train Station to wheelchair accessible vehicles only with immediate effect.

 

The Group noted that this proposal was not practical to implement and would be discriminatory to other operators.

 

(c) WHITE PLATES

 

Reports of white plate drivers sitting beside ranks. When is it likely that a cap will be put on the number of white plates in operation in Dundee?

 

The Group noted that there were no restrictions on where a white plate vehicles may park other than normal traffic restrictions and that there were currently no legislative powers to cap the number of private hire licences granted but that the Act is likely to be revised at a later date and that the Council had indicated their support to this.

 

(d) SURVEY

 

What is the number of taxi operator licences sitting at currently? As it approaches the figure of 611 will the Council be conducting a full survey to look at the potential unmet demand within the city? If so can we ensure that the survey also looks at the number of white plate vehicles that have been granted and the effect they are having on demand.

 

The Group noted that this item had been covered and that the number of licences against type of vehicle or nature of licence may be examined.

 

VII UNITE THE UNION

 

Items on agenda at request of Unite the Union:-

 

(a) Breakdown of costs, why bring in other Council taxi testing when there isnt any profit to be made?

 

The Group noted that this item had been covered.

 

(b) Drop-off zones in the Nethergate area.

 

The Group noted that the Transportation Department were examining this issue.

 

(c) Extend the Caird Avenue rank due to no bus use at bus stops.

 

The Group noted that the Transportation Department were examining this issue and other school contract transport matters at this area.

 

(d) Company licence for all taxis.

 

The Group noted that this item had been covered.

 

(e) Access to A&E for taxis for bus lane and ambulance at Ninewells.

 

The Group noted that Stuart Galloway would look at this and check if it was a public road.

 

(f) Taxi Rank in St Andrews Street becoming dangerous with buses due to widened pavement at the bottom of King Street.

 

The Group noted that the Transportation Department would arrange to have the lane markings made more clearer.

 

(g) Move away from the three test a year and revert back to one test.

 

The Group noted that this item had been covered.

 

(h) Insurance hired cars must be re-tested before the vehicle is passed to the operator to ensure the vehicle is in a fit and proper condition as these vehicles are operating allโ€‘round the UK and may have covered an excess of miles and the vehicle arrives without the plate being attached as the plates and meters being swapped from licence authority to licence authority, some vehicles are not road worthy according to person's who have had to use these vehicles.

 

The Group noted that this item would be looked at.

 

(i) Drivers with a private hire badge must only be operating private hires without a meter.

 

The Group noted that this item would be considered.

 

 

 

 

Stuart GALLOWAY, Chair.