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Private hire boss loses licence after claims he didn't pay one of his drivers over £8,000 owed

Updated: Oct 23, 2021

Image credit : Pixabay

A private hire operator has lost his licence after claims relating to unpaid invoices to one of his drivers.

Bath & North East Somerset Licensing Committee heard the case at a recent meeting where the council’s Public Protection Officer presented the report to the members.

The board heard that on 19 November 2020, Licensing received an email from a solicitor acting on behalf of a complainant who was a licensed B&NES Private Hire vehicle proprietor. The email stated that the complainant had worked as a private hire driver on behalf of a licensed Private hire operator, between February 2017 and May 2018 and that the complainant had not been paid during the period from March 2017 to May 2018.

He said that the complainant had filed a claim at the County Court Online against the licensee for the non-payment, which totalled £8405 and that on 5 August 2020, the complainant was successful in that claim and awarded £8405 plus £410 costs, totalling £8815.

He added that on 11 January 2021, the complainant sent Licensing an email containing 16 attachments of unpaid invoices relating to work carried out on behalf of the licensee.

He explained that on 4 February 2021, the licensee informed Licensing in writing, of his version of events regarding the unpaid invoices.

He said that on 5 August 2021, the complainant sent Licensing a statement confirming that he had not been paid for work carried out on behalf of the licensee that he had been awarded the total invoiced amount plus costs at a County Court Online.

The complainant’s solicitor addressed the Sub-Committee and stated that the case is clear. The licensee has not paid invoices that have been issued to him and that a County Court Judgement has ruled that he should pay the total in full, plus costs. He added that he felt that the licensee should also have his licence revoked.

A representative on behalf of the licensee addressed the Sub-Committee. He said that he carries out a school run on behalf of the licensee and provides him with a detailed invoice every month which is paid promptly by cheque.

He stated that he felt that the invoices supplied by the complainant were not very detailed and contained dates within school holidays. He added that the licensee has applied to have the County Court Judgement set aside.

The licensee addressed the Sub-Committee. He said that on receipt of invoices he would look to pay drivers by cheque the same day. He added that on occasions where drivers forget to provide invoices he has paid them and asked for them to be provided in due course.

The Chairman asked how he had received the invoices from the complainant.

The licensee replied that he had not received any invoices until after the County Court Judgement had been given. He said that he had no knowledge of the proceedings prior to the judgement.

The Chairman asked why he had not chased the complainant for the invoices.

The licensee replied that he had. He added that he had paid the complainant by cash and believed that he was trying to claim again by submitting the invoices and requesting a lump sum.

Councillor Sally Davis commented that in her opinion the invoices from the complainant did not contain any school holiday periods.

The Lead Officer – Licensing asked the licensee if the journeys carried out by the complainant had been confirmed by the Home to School Transport department. The licensee replied that they had.

Referring to previous incidents mentioned within the report the licensee stated that he believed that the investigation in 2016 had only started because he had uncovered that friends of the Lead Officer - Licensing were running an unlicensed private hire business. The licensee provided no evidence of this claim.

Members considered whether the licensee remained a fit and proper person to hold a Private Hire Operators License. Members reminded themselves that each case is taken on its merit, any economic impact of the decision is irrelevant and with public protection being the paramount importance the whole of a person’s character is relevant.

Bath and North East Somerset Council Licensing Sub-Committee decided to revoke the licence of the operator.

In all the circumstances Members found the Licence holder is not fit to operate a Private Hire Operators License and undermined the public trust in the system. Members asked themselves the following question: Would they feel confident, as a driver, of payment when taking referrals from the license operator? In all the circumstances, and on the balance of probabilities, Members answered that question, No. Members do not consider a period of suspension would serve any purpose given the facts, the License holder has had opportunity to make payment when the invoices were received and after the judgment, but has failed to do so.

Therefore there was no evidence to suggest the Licence holder is fit and proper.


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