Reporting Person – Matthew Cobb
The Sub-Committee received a report which requested that a decision be made as to whether Mr D should continue to be permitted to hold a Hackney Carriage Licence, under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, following the accrual of in excess of 12 Penalty Points under the Council’s Penalty Points Scheme. Mr D attended the meeting.
All parties present had a copy of the Licensing Committee’s agreed procedure to be followed at Taxi Licensing Sub-Committee hearings. The Chairman introduced the Sub-Committee to those present and explained the procedure and order of speaking that would be followed during the hearing.
The Licensing Authority’s representative outlined the report before the Sub-Committee. Mr D had held a Driver’s Badge since at least 2002 (the earliest date for which records were held). In March 2021, it had come to light that Mr D was residing at an address in Birmingham whilst the registered address for his Driver’s Badge was in Woking, as confirmed by Mr D to the Licensing Authority in January 2021. Mr D had stated that he owned a property in Birmingham, however he would stay with his mother whilst working as a taxi driver in the Borough. Between 2016 and 2020 there were thirty documents which had stated that his address was in Woking.
Following liaison with the Council’s Revenues and Benefits team it was established that the property in Woking was in receipt of the 25% Single Person’s discount. On 4 March 2020, Mr D advised the Licensing Authority that he resided in Woking and rented out the property in Birmingham. Following the removal of the Single Person’s discount by Revenues and Benefits, the backdating of which to 2015 had caused hardship for his mother, further communication was received from Mr D on 28 April 2021 which stated that he was living in Birmingham and staying with his mother in Woking when working within the Borough. As a result, the Licensing Authority felt that there was no option other than referring the matter to the Taxi Licensing Sub-Committee for consideration of revocation. It was added that there had been no other issues of concern regarding Mr D’s suitability to be a taxi driver.
Mr D stated that he had no questions for the Licensing Authority’s representative.
Following questions by Members of the Sub-Committee, it was noted that the change of address notification had now been received; taxi drivers had a responsibility to be aware of Council policy; Appendix 3 to the report contained operator logs between January and March 2020 to show that Mr D had been driving during that period; and that previous licence applicants have had their licences refused or revoked when false or fraudulent information had been provided.
The Chairman gave Mr D the opportunity to address the Sub-Committee. Mr D stated that he had been a taxi driver for 27 years and had received no complaints during that time. He stated that he only undertook special needs and school trips, and had not collected a customer from the station taxi rank for 20 years. He stated that he had been through a difficult divorce which had affected him greatly, and had given half of his company to a colleague who operated it on his behalf. As he could no longer afford a house in Woking, he had moved to Birmingham and resided with his mother in Woking for 2-3 days a week. He advised that he was under the impression all taxi drivers had to live within the Borough. He stated that he did not defend his actions, adding that he was a fit and proper person to hold a Driver’s Badge. His company employed 22 local taxi drivers and it was useful for him to hold a licence so that he could help ensure the requirements of the contract with Surrey County Council were met.
The Licensing Authority’s representative clarified that it was currently the case that taxi drivers did not have to reside within the Borough, however the Council’s records did not go back far enough to confirm the situation 27 years ago.
Following questions by Members of the Sub-Committee, Mr D stated that due to the difficult time he faced around his divorce other documentation in his personal life had not been updated either; and that he had been staying at his mother’s property for a couple of nights a week for five or six years.
The Chairman gave those parties present the opportunity to make closing statements.
Mr Cobb advised that the Sub-Committee had heard the information provided by Mr D and stated that the Licensing Authority had previously permitted a postal address to be used in the event of hardship. He reminded the Sub-Committee that other applicants had had their licence refused or revoked for providing false or fraudulent information.
Mr D thanked the Sub-Committee for listening to the evidence he had provided and stated that sometimes difficult circumstances did not make life straightforward. He emphasised that his licence was solely used as a back-up if needed to assist the company he was a half-shareholder of.
The Chairman adjourned the hearing for deliberation at 8.55pm, later requesting that the Council’s Solicitor, Amanda Francis, join them. The Sub-Committee reconvened at 9.15pm.
The Chairman reported that the Sub-Committee had taken account of the written representations before it, the oral statements made at the hearing, the Council’s Penalty Points Scheme and National Guidance. the facts set out in the report, along with evidence received at the hearing and from Mr D. It had been agreed that the Driver’s Badge held by Mr D should be revoked due to false information being provided on the application form.
That the Driver’s Badge held by Mr D would be revoked due to false information being provided on the application form.