LLG Collaborates with the Institute of Licensing to Launch Guidance on Determining Suitability of applicants and Licensees

Publish date: 26/04/2018

LLG have collaborated with the Institute of Licensing who today launched guidance on determining the suitability of applicants and licensees in the hackney and private hire trades. Tim Briton the SAA National Lead for Litigation and Stephen Turner for Licensing have spent considerable time feeding into this guidance to ensure operators and owners of hackney and private hire vehicles are 'safe and suitable' across all local authorities. Click on the article to read the guidance which considers how regard should be had to the antecedent history of an applicant or licence holder; together with quotes from those involved.

The Institute of Licensing has today (26 April) launched guidance to assist local authorities making decisions about the suitability of applicants and licensees in connection with taxi and private hire driver, vehicle and operator licences.

The document was officially launched at the IoL's Taxi Conference by Institute of Licensing President James Button and Stephen Turner, Chair of the working party responsible for drafting the Guidance. The Taxi Conference took place in Swindon with an audience of over 100 licensing practitioners hearing from a range of expert speakers.

The document entitled 'Guidance on determining the suitability of applicants and licensees in the hackney and private hire trades' considers how regard should be had to the antecedent history of the applicant or licence holder and its relevance to their 'fitness and propriety' or 'suitability' – this would include previous convictions but may also include other information coming to light for the licensing authority to consider.

This Guidance cannot have the force of legislation, new or amended; the need for which is both abundantly clear to, and fully supported by the Institute and the other organisations working with it. The Guidance can be used by local authorities as a basis for their own local policies and if widely adopted will achieve greater consistency so that applicants are less able to shop between authorities. It is acknowledged that consistency cannot be fully achieved without the imposition of national minimum standards.

Cases such as the exploitation uncovered in Rotherham and subsequently other areas, together with other individual cases have highlighted the importance of vetting and assessing potential licence holders and the potentially catastrophic consequences of inadequate vetting. A level of consistency across the country would do much to ensure safety of passengers including children and vulnerable adults.

The Institute of Licensing is delighted to present this Guidance which has been produced in partnership with the Local Government Association (LGA), National Association of Licensing and Enforcement Officers (NALEO) and Lawyers in Local Government (LLG).

IoL Chairman, Daniel Davies said:

"This is an important step forward for taxi licensing standards. This Guidance has been produced by the IoL in partnership with the LGA, LLG and NALEO and provides an opportunity for local authorities to raise standards and consistency in the licensing of taxi and private hire drivers, vehicles and operators. This is fundamentally needed in the absence of new law, to provide a better standards for safeguarding passengers, including children and vulnerable adults.

The majority of applicants and licensees are professional, hard working people and this guidance will assist local authorities in setting the bar for entry to the trade to ensure that that professionalism is protected and preserved. I commend the Guidance to local authorities and hope that it will prove invaluable in their role as licensing authorities charged with the sometimes difficult task of vetting applicants and licensees in the hackney and private hire trades."

IoL President, James Button said

"Hackney carriage and private hire drivers, operators and vehicle proprietors are responsible for public safety: in the case of drivers, on a direct, face to face basis. Passengers and others must not only be safe, but must also feel safe, and high standards of integrity must be demonstrated and upheld. These Guidelines are the result of over 2 years work by the working party, which recognised there was a clear need for up-to-date guidance to assist local authorities in determining whether a person was safe and suitable to hold a hackney carriage or private hire licence. They will enable local authorities to promote high standards, for the benefit of their communities and visitors, and will also assist in the creation of a more consistent approach across England and Wales. I would urge local authorities to adopt them."

Stephen Turner, Chair of the Institute's working party said

"All Local authorities need to be satisfied that the drivers, operators and owners of hackney and private hire vehicles are 'safe and suitable' in order to protect the public and in particular those who are vulnerable. This Guidance which has drawn on a very wide pool of knowledge and expertise will help to deliver that protection and help to ensure that consistent, reasoned and robust decisions are made."

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the Local Government Association's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

"The development of this new guidance shows the willingness and ability of the sector to work together to strengthen taxi and private hire vehicle licensing processes and will be a useful tool on which councils can base their own policies. We hope this work will prompt the government to publish updated statutory guidance in order to strengthen safeguarding further."

Tim Briton, National Licensing Lead for LLG said:

"The legislation and case law regulating taxis and private hire has, until recently, emphasised the inherently local nature of the regulatory control. Clearly local authorities are best placed to determine what is appropriate in their area and what issues they each face. The Deregulation Act 2015 drove a coach and horses through that local control, and councils now struggle with the influx of drivers and vehicles licensed elsewhere but working in their area. It cannot be right that a person who has had their licence revoked by one council can get licensed elsewhere by a council with a lower threshold for 'acceptable' criminal conduct. This guidance will go a long way to stamping out this practice, by providing a much needed national benchmark.

"The emphasis that a person's safety and suitability is to be determined on matters wider than simply the length of time since they were last convicted of an offence is particularly helpful. The travelling public often place themselves in a position of vulnerability when they engage a driver's services. They are entitled to place their trust in the authorities that regulate the trade. That trust should not be undermined by indefensible inconsistencies.

On behalf of Lawyers in Local Government I wholeheartedly endorse this guidance."

John Miley, National Chair of NALEO commented

"NALEO is delighted to have been a partner in developing this guidance. It is vitally important that all those involved in the taxi and private hire trades are properly vetted to ensure the safety of the travelling public. The guidance will become a vital tool for licensing authorities in the robust consideration of all applications, raising standards across the country for the protection of passengers and drivers alike, delivering a measure of consistency in that consideration."

Rachel Griffin, Suzy Lamplugh Trust said:

"Suzy Lamplugh Trust welcomes the Institute of Licensing 'Guidance on determining the suitability of applicants and licensees in the hackney carriage and private hire trade' as an important step towards reforming current regulation and improving the personal safety of passengers. The current lack of detailed legislation outlining how decisions by licensing authorities about the propriety of licence applicants should be approached leaves the process open to inconsistency and is potentially putting passengers' safety at risk. This guidance is a step towards such legislation and highlights important considerations for licensing authorities moving forwards.

"It is important and welcome that this Guidance outlines the importance of recording an individual's previous behaviour, including soft intelligence as well as convictions, in order to assess their potential to cause harm. In particular we support the premise that, in addition to the nature of the offence or other behaviour, the quantity of incidents and the period over which they were committed should also be considered. Maintaining records of patterns of repeated unacceptable behaviour over time are vital, as such patterns can demonstrate a propensity for unacceptable behaviour.

"Suzy Lamplugh Trust hopes that this guidance will be considered as part of legislative change to ensure that people are better protected while using taxis and private hire vehicles. There is an urgent need for a wider governmental review to reform taxi and private hire vehicle licensing requirements as these are currently not fit for purpose."

The Guidance can be found here