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SEVEN DISTRICTS MERGE: North Yorkshire set to finalise merged taxi licensing plans arriving in April

Taxi drivers are due to operate across the whole of North Yorkshire as councillors will meet to discuss the views of hundreds of people who took part in a consultation on plans to adopt a county-wide policy.

Members of the executive will meet next week to discuss plans to introduce a single hackney carriage and private hire licensing policy from this Spring.

The existing seven borough and district councils currently have their own hackney carriage and private hire licensing policies. But ahead of the launch of the new North Yorkshire Council delivering all local services from 1 April, the executive’s members will be asked to endorse a new single policy for the county.

The new policy incorporates the Department for Transport’s (DfT) taxi and private hire vehicle best practice guidance and statutory standards, to ensure that the public continues to be provided with safe and accessible vehicles. It also provides a coherent regulatory framework for the trade across the county.

Council leader, Cllr Carl Les, said: “The hackney carriage and private hire licensing policy for North Yorkshire plays an integral part in demonstrating the new council’s commitment to ensuring that the public is provided with safe and accessible hackney carriages and private hire vehicles.

“As a single local authority for North Yorkshire, it also ensures hackney carriage and private hire licence holders and taxi operators across the county are treated equally.

"Following feedback from the trade and the public, some changes to the policy have been made, and I’d like to thank those that took the time to share their views.

"The adoption of this policy is only the start. No doubt in the future, there will be changes and improvements made as we move forward as a unitary authority."

Between 25 October and 16 January, North Yorkshire Council consulted on the draft policy, offering licence holders, taxi operators and the public the opportunity to share their views.

About 300 responses were received, along with several comments, which have helped to shape the hackney carriage and private hire licensing policy for North Yorkshire Council.

As a result of this, some recommendations have been made. These include removing the proposed five-year age limit of a vehicle for all new licence applications and increasing the maximum age that a vehicle can be licensed to 10 years, in the hope of reducing financial costs on anyone wishing to enter the trade.

To ensure the above recommendation does not have any adverse effects on a vehicle’s condition, it has been proposed to change the frequency of testing. Vehicles aged up to five years old will require testing once a year, vehicles aged between five and seven years will need two tests per year, and vehicles aged over seven years old will require three tests per year. All vehicles will require an MOT as well.

52 percent of respondents disagreed with the proposal for a single zone for North Yorkshire. A total of 45 percent of people who took part also disagreed with the proposal to impose no quantity restrictions.

Comments have been reviewed and despite some reluctance to a single zone and the proposal not to impose any quantity restrictions on hackney carriages, there is clear guidance as to why these measures should still be adopted.

The DfT’s best practice guidance recommends the abolition of zones for a single authority to ensure the licensing process is consistent across the county and customers are treated fairly, allowing the market to determine the level of supply. And despite a fear from the trade of 'hotspot' areas, evidence from other authorities that have followed a similar approach has indicated that any negative impacts tend to level out over time.

A single zone also encourages environmental efficiencies with the potential for fewer empty journeys, a wider distribution of wheelchair-accessible vehicles (WAVs) and efficiency savings for the council, with one set of rules and tariff of fares.

60 percent of respondents agreed that not all vehicles should be WAVs at this time, however the council is aware that there should be adequate provision across the county. Age limits will not be applied to designated WAVs, which allows for a wider scope of vehicles to be licensed, in addition to a commitment to develop and maintain an inclusive service plan within 18 months of the policy being adopted.

More than 60 percent of respondents also agreed that all applicants for a hackney carriage and private hire driver’s licence must pass an approved practical driving assessment. And some 53 percent agreed that new applicants for driver and operator licences should be required to complete an approved disability awareness training session before a licence is granted.

Cllr Les, who will assume the leadership of the new council from 1 April, added: “It is imperative that every single person using a hackney carriage or private hire vehicle can do so in the knowledge that the vehicle is safe and the driver has carried out the necessary training sessions.

“Not all disabilities are visual, so I’m pleased that the results have shown that drivers and operators must complete an approved disability awareness training before being granted a licence. We are committed to looking at the demand for WAVs and options to increase provision in the near future. We also hope to do so in partnership with disabled user groups across North Yorkshire.”

If approved by the county council’s executive next week 7 February, the new policy will be adopted from 1 April, along with a single set of licensing fees for both hackney carriage and private hire vehicles and a maximum set of fares for hackney carriages.


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