The report seeks to provide the Licensing Committee with the relevant information to make an informed decision on allowing the Taxi Licensing Team to implement a single licensing zone for Hackney Carriages within the Wiltshire Council area.
The report attached to the Agenda sought to provide the Licensing Committee with the relevant information to make an informed decision on authorising the Taxi Licensing Team to implement a single licensing zone for Hackney Carriages within the Wiltshire Council area. Adrian Hampton (Head of Highway Operations) highlighted the following:
The Chairman asked if the Committee agreed to the proposals today would that mean that the other depots would close? Adrian Hampton reported that if the single zone was not implemented, they would have to look at short term solutions as to how they could continue to operate in 4 zones. The Council would need to approve a capital spend which was unlikely in the current climate.
The Chairman asked if there would be capacity in the system for all of the inspections to be carried out at the Devizes depot without there being a backlog in the system and drivers having to wait for an inspection and therefore not be able to work. Adrian Hampton reported that historically each of the workshops were open one day a week so with the new proposed arrangements Kennet House would operate five days a week offering the same booking opportunities. The Churchfields depot in Salisbury would have additional capacity and there was resilience there to use that for any overflow.
A Committee member asked if two of the depots were to close would they be sold off for a cash benefit? Adrian Hampton responded that the Riverway’s depot workshop would require considerable investment and that there were not long term plans for that site. There had been a change of use at the Chippenham depot and the workshop would require investment to re-establish the facility there for the safe access of visitors. Whilst there is an issue with the roof at the Salisbury site this is fully funded and would remain in use as a fleet depot.
A Committee member asked that given the disgruntlement from drivers in the South of the county – had any consideration been given to move to 2 licensing zones? Adrian Hampton responded that they could have the south drivers using the Churchfields site, but the issue is not just around the workshop that they have to visit for inspection twice a year there is also the being able to work in any area of Wiltshire and the Council’s challenge of having 1 zone to reduce carbon emissions. The number of responses must also be considered. Running two sites full time impacts the effectiveness of the service and considerable support with the consultation would need to have shown this. The lack of a response impacts the justification of running two zones and work shops permanently.
The Committee member then asked if Salisbury drivers would be able to use the Churchfields depot and would there be sufficient capacity there for them to have the option to go to Salisbury for inspections. Adrian Hampton accepted that there had been greater challenge from drivers in the south but that he could not guarantee that all could be inspected in Salisbury. He confirmed that they had considered 2 zones but felt that reflecting the low consultation results and for the maximum carbon efficiencies as part of the long term strategy a single zone for Wiltshire gives the best outcome with the main inspection centre being centrally located in Devizes with the possibility of some inspections in Salisbury.
The Vice Chair asked if there would be changes to the knowledge test if we move to a single zone? Adrian Hampton confirmed there it was not proposed to change the knowledge test and would continue as historically.
Adrian Hampton reiterated that there is an issue with current depot provision and they had to maximise the use and efficiency of the depots. The argument to continue to run the Churchfields depot will be based upon the needs for taxi licencing. There would be challenges as Adrian Hampton’s primary responsibility was to ensure that Council services were effective as possible and it was not felt to be unreasonable to ask drivers to attend inspections in Devizes to achieve maximum efficiencies and this would be offset with drivers now being able to fill return journeys. Also with the low consultation responses a two depot and zone outcome would be hard to justify.
A Committee member reported that she had no issues with the implementation of one zone but felt that the knowledge test would have to be reviewed/expanded. In relation to the depots she expressed concern about the resilience of Devizes to the detriment of the others and felt that for a second workshop to be functional that it could be scheduled that for x days in the month there be availability at the Salisbury depot and that it would be better for the machinery etc to be used on a regular basis etc.
The Chairman asked if the single zone was to be implemented would there be a review period. Adrian Hampton reported that he receives monthly update reports from the Taxi Licensing team and suggested that there could be six monthly updates to the Committee on this. If the proposal was agreed there would be communications to the trade and public following the mandatory advertisement of the changes.
1. That the Licensing Committee authorises the Taxi Licensing team to implement a single licensing zone for hackney carriage vehicles across Wiltshire.
2. That the driver knowledge test is reviewed accordingly in light of the change approved in 1. above.
3. That the primary licensed vehicle inspections are undertaken from Kennet House in Devizes.
4. That a backup vehicle inspection premises be maintained at Churchfields depot in Salisbury.
5. That an update report be brought back to the Licensing Committee after 6 months of operation of the new single licensing zone.