Venue: Virtual Meeting. View directions
Contact: Luciane Bowker Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were submitted from Councillors Paul Fishwick and Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey.
To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 10 November 2020.
The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 10 November 2020 were confirmed as a correct record and would be signed by the Chairman at a later date.
Declaration of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
There were no declarations of interest.
Public Question Time
To answer any public questions
A period of 30 minutes will be allowed for members of the public to ask questions submitted under notice.
The Council welcomes questions from members of the public about the work of this committee.
Subject to meeting certain timescales, questions can relate to general issues concerned with the work of the Committee or an item which is on the Agenda for this meeting. For full details of the procedure for submitting questions please contact the Democratic Services Section on the numbers given below or go to www.wokingham.gov.uk/publicquestions
There were no public questions.
Member Question Time
To answer any member questions
There were no Member questions.
To receive and consider the Taxi and Private Hire Fee Consultation responses report.
Julia O’Brien, Principal Officer Compliance and Enforcement presented the report. She stated that the report contained the consultation responses on the fees which were considered at the November meeting. Three objections to the fee increase were received during the consultation period and were as listed in the report, two from individual representations and one from the Taxis Association (although it was uncertain how many people were represented by the association).
During the discussion of the item the following comments were made:
· Councillor Burgess expressed dissatisfaction that the consultation on the fees had occurred after the fees had been set and approved by Executive and Council, she believed the consultation should have taken place prior to the Budget setting process;
· Sean Murphy, Public Protection Partnership (PPP) Manager stated that although the fees had been set, the Committee had the option to review the fees and to provide subsidy retrospectively;
· Councillor Burgess requested that the timeliness of such consultations be taken into account in the future;
· Councillor Burgess stated that the taxi trade had been struggling as a result of the current pandemic and proposed that their fees should not be increased this year, and should be subsidised;
· Councillor Kerr agreed with the points raised by Councillor Burgess and seconded her proposal; she belied that this was not the right time to increase the fees;
· The Chairman pointed out that the Council had been helping various businesses which were struggling during the pandemic and suggested that there may be a better mechanism to help the trade;
· Sean Murphy clarified that any decisions on the fees at a this stage would consist of a subsidy;
· Councillor Ferris agreed with the points made by Councillors Burgess and Kerr, and he stated that the trade had lost around 80% of its usual business during this period, and many drivers did not qualify for the furlough scheme. He believed that there was a risk that drivers may not carry on operating in the Borough if there was an increase in fees, and this could have an adverse impact on the Council’s finances;
· In response to a question Julia O’Brien stated that the reduction in the number of drivers were as follows:
· Hackney Carriage - 86 before the pandemic now 68
· Private Hire - 149 before the pandemic now 126
· Operators - 40 before the pandemic now 36
· Sean Murphy stated that the Council was aware of the importance to the trade and the need to support it through this difficult time. He pointed out that the fees were set on a cost recovery basis. He agreed to review the consultation cycle to make sure it fit in with the Budget setting process in the future;
· Councillor Patman stated that there had been a limited number of responses to the consultation, he was concerned that there were other sectors that had also been struggling as a result of the pandemic and that the Council had been suffering with loss of income too;
· The Chairman pointed out that ... view the full minutes text for item 24.
To receive and consider the Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Dimensions Briefing Paper.
Sean Murphy presented the Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle Dimensions Briefing Paper.
Sean Murphy stated that the hackney carriage trade had asked for a review of the height condition in relation to wheelchair accessibility. The report outlined details of the findings of the review and the recommendation was to maintain the existing condition.
During the discussion of the item the following comments were made:
· Councillor Soane stated that the trade wanted some clarity as to which vehicles were suitable as hackney carriages in order to make informed decisions when deciding to buy a vehicle. A Task and Finish Group had already considered the issue he believed that the current conditions should be maintained;
· Councillor Burgess asked if there was a wide variety of vehicles available with 54 inches height from floor to ceiling; she also asked if 54 inches, which had been proposed by a disabled persons transport advisory committee a long time ago, was still the current recommendation, she believed this had now changed to 58 inches;
· Councillor Burgess proposed to extend the period to comply with the current conditions by one year;
· Sean Murphy stated that the report contained examples of cars that were compliant with the current conditions. He also stated that the current conditions would be considered later in the year and the issue of 58 inches could be reviewed then.
Councillor Kerr seconded Councillor Burgess’ proposal to extend the period of 5 years to 6 years to comply with the conditions.
Councillor Loyes was interested to know if there were electrical vehicles that were suitable and compliant with the conditions. Sean Murphy stated that the report mentioned one model of electric vehicle which was suitable, this was the Nissan model; the range of electric vehicles was limited at the moment.
Members debated Councillor Burgess’ proposal to extend the period of time to comply with the wheelchair height condition, and upon being put to the vote the proposal was defeated. Councillor Hobbs wished it to be recorded that she abstained from the vote.
Upon being put to the vote Members voted in favour of the recommendations contained in the report.
RESOLVED That the Committee decides to maintain the existing condition for entry and internal space requirements for wheelchair accessible vehicles as agreed at the meeting of this Committee on 4 September 2018.
To consider the Licensing and Appeals Committee Forward Plan.
The Committee considered its Forward Plan as per the report in the agenda pack.
A review of the grants given by the Council as a result of the pandemic to licensable businesses was added to the June meeting.
Sean Murphy stated that an offer of a Taxis Liaison meeting would be made to the trade, to consider issues such as a recovery plan.