Agenda item

Proposed Changes to Wiltshire Councils Hackney Carriage Licensing Zone Structure

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:


  • Hackney Carriages can pick up passengers from a rank or the street without being pre-booked.  They are currently licenced for a specific zone and cannot pick up a fare outside of their zone, unless it is pre-booked.  Private hire vehicles licensed in Wiltshire can operate anywhere in the county as their work is pre-booked and they are not restricted by zone, however they are not permitted to pick up off ranks or be flagged down in the street;


  • The existing zones in Wiltshire are geographically placed in the North, East, South and West reflecting the old district council zones. The Council has a legal obligation to offer vehicle owners an inspection at a location within their zone. This means that the Council is currently operating four workshops to facilitate taxi licensing. These workshops are located at Riverway Depot - Trowbridge, Kennet House Depot - Devizes, Parsonage Way Depot - Chippenham and Churchfields Depot - Salisbury. The Riverway and Parsonage Way workshops have been temporally closed due to infrastructure issues. Both workshops will require investment if they are to reopen;


  • On 7 March 2022 the Licensing Committee gave approval for a consultation with the industry on proposals to create a single licensing zone for hackney carriages in the Wiltshire Council area:


  • Response rates were very low with only 34 responses being received;


  • There were some issues with regards to the depots – there were structural issues at the Riverway depot in Trowbridge and an inoperable inspection ramp, The current inspection facilities at the Parsonage Way depot in Chippenham are unavailable due to the site being changed to a salt store and the Churchfields depot was currently struggling with roof issues.  The Kennet House in Devizes workshop has been refurbished as part of the Council’s Fleet and Depot strategies and is available to take on all of the taxi licensing work;


  • There were not many financial savings associated with this proposal and there would be a one of cost with the implementation of a single zone to advertise the changes at a cost of approximately £5,000.  If this proposal was not implemented that would need to be a major investment in the other depots and investment has yet to be secured for 2 of the other depot sites;


  • The introduction of a single zone covering the whole of Wiltshire would see an alignment of all taxi licensing services in a central location and this would support the Council’s efficiency of fleet and taxi inspections, avoid the cost of depot repairs, allow taxis to not travel back empty from across the county and therefore increase their revenue and would also along with the Council’s carbon reduction commitment; and


  • The Churchfields depot is to remain in operation (following the roof repairs) and it would be possible to use that as a backup depot for inspections etc if required.


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.

Supporting documents: