New CCTV and zero emissions taxi licensing policy given green light in South Cambridgeshire

A new taxi licensing policy for South Cambridgeshire aims to improve air quality and increase the safety of passengers and drivers.

District councillors yesterday voted to adopt the new taxi licensing policy, following consultations during which taxi drivers and operators, residents, businesses, councillors, trade associations and Cambridge City Council shared their views. The vote means that South Cambridgeshire District Council will adopt the new policy from 1 April 2020.

CCTV will need to be installed in all vehicles as standard, to provide a consistent safeguarding approach. Meanwhile, a number of changes have been approved that will ensure taxis are greener, supporting the Council’s commitment to become a net-zero carbon district before 2050.

The key points to highlight from the new policy are:

- From 31 March 2021, CCTV will be a mandatory requirement for all Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicles without exception.

- From 1 December 2021, new licences will only be granted to taxis that are ultra-low or zero emission.

- From 1 December 2021, licences will not be granted for taxis older than nine years.

- From 1 December 2028, renewed licences will only be granted to taxis that are ultra-low or zero emission.

Cllr Bill Handley, Lead Cabinet Member for Environmental Services and Licensing (pictured below), said: “We’re really proud of this policy – it shows we’re doing everything we can to make South Cambridgeshire’s taxis as safe as they can possibly be for both passengers and drivers.

"If you have family members who drive taxis or travel in them, it will be reassuring to have the additional safety net that CCTV provides. To address concerns about privacy, audio won’t be recorded unless a driver or passenger feels it is necessary, in which case they can press a button to start the recording and the fact that it is ‘on’ will be clear to passengers and the driver. The CCTV footage will be encrypted and stored securely in the vehicle and will automatically be erased after 28 days. Drivers and operators will be unable to access the data and the images will only be accessible to the police or licensing authority via a formal request to the Council following an incident.

“Residents will know we want to be green to our core and, with taxi journeys being a significant contributor to local air pollution, the move to electric and hybrid vehicles will help cut carbon emissions across the district. We think we’ve set a fair timeline, giving operators and drivers enough time to plan for and make the shift. To ensure an effective transition, we have secured additional Government funding (along with Cambridge City Council) to establish new electric car charging points across the district for exclusive use by taxis.”

The initial consultation on the draft policy took place from July to September 2019. In November a decision was taken to run a further consultation to consider additional issues raised by members of the trade.

Cllr Handley continued: “We’re grateful to everyone who joined in the consultations and we listened to concerns – for instance the policy requiring that signage displaying the operator’s name and phone number be attached to the driver and front passenger doors. Actually, this wasn’t a new policy, but with new operators now in the market, drivers wished to work for more than one operator and asked for it to be removed. We reflected carefully on the feedback but decided that the advantages to public safety of being able to identify the operator externally outweighed any disadvantages. As I said before, safety is our primary concern.”

During the vote, councillors agreed to report at least once per year on the frequency of requests to the Council to access the footage.

Image credit: South Cambridgeshire District Council

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