A new licensing policy has been approved by councillors in Newcastle who say ensuring the safety of the public is “an absolute priority.”
Members of the Council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee agreed the policy following lengthy consultations with drivers and operators.
Clouncillor Stephen Sweeney, Deputy Leader of the Council and the Cabinet member responsible for licensing, said: “This policy puts a framework in place which allows us to protect the safety and well-being of the travelling public.
"These are the foundations of what this policy is all about and public safety is not something we are prepared to compromise on.
“Throughout the development of this policy we have kept a constant, open dialogue with representatives from the hackney carriage and private hire trade.
"We extended the consultation on the policy twice at their request and we have also made a number of concessions after listening to points that they raised with us.
“We have not conceded to the trade on every single issue they raised with us and while they may not be totally happy I think the concessions made shows that we have listened to try and get the best possible outcome for all concerned.”
As well as previous meetings and discussions, representatives for hackney carriage and private hire drivers were also given an opportunity to address the committee before councillors made any decisions.
Changes agreed to previous proposals included:-
- Scrapping a proposed penalty points system for driver indiscretions and replacing it with three warnings during a set period and following that the person would be referred to a meeting with councillors.
- No insistence that all new/replacement saloon black cabs must be electric despite Government pressure on councils to tackle air quality issues.
- Removing an obligation from operators on keeping logbooks of the service history for vehicles of self-employed drivers. This obligation will stay on drivers though.
At last night’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, councillors also agreed to make further changes to proposals – firstly over a Knowledge Test but also the criteria for vehicles being licensed for the first time.
The test – which will also be used to assess the English language skills of drivers – will now only be for new drivers. However, existing drivers may be required to pass the test if concerns are raised relating to any of the subjects in the proposed test such as the Highway Code, disability awareness, safeguarding and child sexual exploitation.
And for the age of vehicles, the committee decided to align the borough with the requirements Stoke-on-Trent City Council currently have in place which is that vehicles must be less than seven-years old when first licensed and when the vehicles become 10-years-old they will require safety/MOT tests at six monthly intervals and there is no maximum age for vehicles.
Councillor Sweeney said: “There are around 1,100 drivers licensed in our borough and the Council’s goal is to ensure we have the best framework in place to ensure hackney carriage and private hire drivers - and their vehicles – provide a service which puts the safety and welfare of the travelling public as the first priority.
“We are not prepared to accept the lowering of any standards which would impact upon this priority. Our policy will help to ensure standards are kept at a high level and we know that this is something which the operators and drivers also wish to see.”