To discuss issues raised by a number of taxi drivers.
A response letter to taxi drivers from Susan Parsonage, Chief Executive Officer was circulated to Members.
The Chairman opened the item for discussion and the following comments were made:
· In relation to the age of vehicles, Members noted that the issue had been discussed and it had been agreed that existing vehicle licences would be allowed to continue up to 15 years, the 10 years rule would apply to new licences only;
· It was agreed that the consultation had not been effective and it needed improving, including contacting taxi drivers via email;
· Members were disappointed that the consultation had been advertised only in the Bracknell paper, they believed it should have included other papers in order to cover the whole Borough;
· The suggestion of emailing taxi drivers was welcomed. However Members pointed out that the consultation should reach the general public too, and as such a wider variety of papers should be used for advertising consultations;
· Members suggested the use of social media as well;
· Some Members questioned the validity of the consultation and suggested re-considering the decision;
· Members were interested to know how the representative from the trade had been selected for last year’s Task and Finish Group;
· Councillor Burgess stated that she had raised a concern over the issue of the steep increase in fees back in November. At the time she suggested staggering the increase, but no-one had agreed to her proposal. She had also asked at the last meeting if there had been any objections to the consultation and was told that there were not any. She was of the opinion that the Council and this Committee could have dealt with this issue in a better way;
· It was understood that the reason for the steep increase was that Wokingham’s fees had not increased for a number of years, and that the intention was to bring it in line with the other authorities in the PPP. However, some Members pointed out that it was not the taxi drivers’ fault that Wokingham had not, over the years, reviewed its fees;
· Councillor Hobbs believed that it had been agreed by the Committee, around a year ago, that the Council would write to taxi drivers;
· Councillor Ferris stated that the fees had been presented to the Committee as a formality only, that the decision had already been made. He expressed concern that the increase in fees were having a financial harmful effect on taxi drivers, and he believed that the Council should be able to amend this decision. He believed that a Task and Finish Group needed to be set up as soon as possible to look into this issue. He also stated that in the future the Committee should be able to properly take part in the fee setting process;
· Sean Murphy, PPP Manager stated that the fee setting was part of the budget setting process for the joint PPP. Last year the fees were first discussed at PPP in September and then they were presented to this Committee in November for recommendation to the full Council in December. He believed that it would be a good idea to set up a Task and Finish Group to review the fees and also the tariffs as soon as possible, as the budget cycle had already started. The next set of fees would be discussed at the joint PPP meeting in September and would be brought to this Committee in November;
· Councillor Burgess asked that the consultation process be improved for the next cycle. She believed that this Committee could amend the fees for this year. Sean Murphy confirmed that the Committee had the ability to recommend to Council to change the fees mid-year;
· Sean Murphy stated that the consultation had been carried out twice in Wokingham. Members stated that this reiterated the fact that the consultation was being advertised in the wrong place.
After much discussion it was proposed and agreed that a Task and Finish Group would be set up to review the issues discussed at the meeting.
1) A Task and Finish Group will be set up, as soon as possible, with representatives from the taxi trade, Members of the Committee and Licensing Officers;
2) The Task and Finish Group will review:
I. the fees and tariffs for next year
II. possibly adjust this year’s fees and tariffs
III. the age of vehicles
IV. out of area operators
V. disability training
3) The Task and Finish Group will bring a proposal to the Committee.