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City Of Westminster                                                            7


Transportation and          Date:          Title of Report
Infrastructure              27 May
Overview and Scrutiny       2003           Mini-Cab Licensing
Committee
Classification

FOR GENERAL RELEASE

                            All
Wards Involved
Policy Context              The City Council has long lobbied for London mini-cabs
                            to be licensed, as they are throughout the rest of the
                            country.
Financial Summary           There are no financial implications arising directly from
                            this report.
Report Author               Martin Low


1.   Summary of this Report

1.1 The report provides the Committee with an update on progress with the licensing
    of London mini-cab operators, drivers and vehicles.

1.2 An oral update will be given at the Committee meeting, if necessary.


2.   Recommendation

2.1 That the Committee notes the report and invites representatives from the Public
    Carriage Office and the Corporation of London to a future meeting to discuss
    progress on a range of initiatives to provide safer travel at night through taxis and
    licensed private hire vehicles.


3.   Background Information

3.1 The Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 provides for the licensing of London’s
    private hire operators, drivers and vehicles. The Act is being implemented in three
    distinct phases starting with operators, followed by drivers and, finally, vehicles.

3.2 Transport for London is the Licensing Authority with responsibility for licensing
    London’s taxis and private hire vehicles and the Public Carriage Office (PCO)
    discharges this responsibility on behalf of Transport for London on a day-to-day
    basis.

                                        Page 1 of 5
3.3 The licensing of private hire operators started in January 2001 and it is now
    illegal to operate a mini-cab other than through a licensed operator. The licensing
    of private hire drivers has just begun and the licensing of private hire vehicles is
    expected to start early in 2004.

3.4 The City Council is currently being consulted on the details of the licensing of
    vehicles, with a deadline of 20 June 2003. The consultation is over details of the
    vehicles themselves, registration of the vehicles, how licences must be displayed,
    what advertisements are allowed and their size, etc.


4.   City Council’s Concerns

4.1 The City Council was at the forefront of lobbying for London mini-cabs to be
    licensed. It welcomed the 1998 Act, but has voiced concern over the amount of
    time it has taken to implement it. While implementation is now under way, the City
    Council continues to voice concerns that the procedure of licensing drivers should
    be speeded up (it is expected to take three years to fully register all existing
    drivers) or, if that is really not possible, that priority should be given to licensing
    drivers who work from licensed operators in Westminster, then the other central
    areas.

4.2 The PCO has supplied figures that illustrate that of the 4,000 or so initial invitations
    to pre-registered drivers to apply for their private hire drivers’ licences (there are
    expected eventually to be some 35,000 registered drivers across London), only
    132 are working for licensed operators in Westminster, of an estimated total of
    some 1,280 pre-registered drivers working for Westminster-based operators.
    Officers have made the point to the PCO that the problems caused by unlicensed
    mini-cabs are more prevalent in central London – both in terms of illegal plying-for-
    hire and related safety and security concerns – and therefore the Council
    considers that priority should be given to licensing the drivers that work there.

4.3 The mini-cab trade provides a valuable service to many people including, but not
    exclusively, those trying to get home from central London late at night when
    conventional public transport systems are less available or even closed in the case
    of the Underground and heavy rail. The City Council has therefore expressed
    concern that public confidence in what is an important public transport facility,
    needs to be restored and quickly. The situation could worsen with the changes to
    the licensing regime, which is likely to result in people staying much later in pubs
    and clubs in the West End.


5.   Further Information

     Corporation of London Scheme

5.1 The Corporation of London is hoping to introduce a pilot scheme shortly whereby
    mini-cabs can be booked on-street from designated pick-up points. Officers intend
    to closely monitor this scheme with a view to its possible introduction in parts of
    Westminster, subject to it being successful in the City of London and to Member

                                        Page 2 of 5
     approval. Information could be given to potential passengers at the pick-up points
     about what to look out for in checking that a car is a legitimate mini-cab, which
     would also deter illegal plying-for-hire. Concentrating pick-up at a number of points
     would also make illegal plying-for-hire at such points more easy to enforce against.

5.2 Another option might be to introduce special permit bays for those drivers who
    have been licensed by the PCO. This would then provide them with potential
    collection points for customers who have booked their services or locations where
    they could wait ready for their next telephone booking. The permit holder bays
    could help encourage drivers who have been licensed to seek more business in
    the City of Westminster. It would also give them somewhere to take a short break.


6.   Operation Wendy
6.1 Since 2001, the City of Westminster has carried out operations in conjunction with
    the Metropolitan Police and other agencies to clamp down on the numbers of
    illegal minicabs operating in the West End.

6.2 The illegal minicab is a quality of life issue regarding both the condition of the
    vehicles and the type of person driving them. It is often the case that the driver is
    working to gain extra money on top of claiming benefits. The other kind of drivers
    are those with a much more sinister motive in pursuing lone females who are more
    vulnerable after socialising late at night in the West End. In both cases, the
    individuals are opportunists who do not keep their vehicle in good condition and
    have disregard for the law. These people are committing an offence whether it is
    on the night itself or may have outstanding Court matters against them.

6.3 Under the City Council’s commitment to City Guardianship, these operations are a
    way of tackling these types of anti-social individuals. Often they originate or live in
    outer boroughs but they come to the West End attracted by the large
    concentrations of tourists and visitors who may be unfamiliar with the importance
    of travelling in licensed taxicabs or where they think they will simply go unnoticed.

6.4 The operations carried out in Westminster are ‘multi-agency’ operations. Those
    taking part are the City Council, Metropolitan Police, National Enforcement
    Agency, Department of Work & Pensions, Immigration, DVLA and Customs and
    Excise. The variety of offences identified and warrants executed during these
    operations reflect the multi-agency approach and include:

    Attempted Murder            Attempted Rape                   Grievous Bodily Harm
    Actual Bodily Harm          Possession of Drugs              Supply of drugs
    Offensive weapon            Going equipped to steal          Theft
    Forgery                     Disqualified driver              Theft of vehicle
    Handling stolen goods       Criminal damage                  Excess alcohol
    Dangerous driving           Reckless driving                 No Insurance
    No MOT                      No driving licence               Vehicle Defective
    No Seat belt                Illegal immigrant                Parking offences
    Exceeding weight            Breach of bail conditions        Illegal Street trading
    Non payment of              No TV licence                    Breech of probation
      community charge

                                         Page 3 of 5
6.5 With the inclusion of the National Enforcement Agency the City Council is able to
    identify dangerous vehicles on the road and to remove them on the spot thus
    removing both the driver and the dangerous vehicle from the road in one step.
    Often through this operation other offences the individual may have committed
    come to light.

6.6 We carry out two types of operation – Operation Wendy and Operation Wendyson:

     (a)     Wendy are larger, static operations where roadblocks are set up and those
             drivers that pass through will be stopped and checked
     (b)     Wendyson are smaller operations that will roam the City targeting specific
             areas, streets or minicab offices. The second tend to be more fruitful as
             with a large fixed operation it relies on the drivers chancing upon the
             roadblock. Word soon gets around and drivers will simply avoid the area
             or street. On an operation Wendyson, the details of locations of ‘swoops’
             will remain unknown and the element of surprise is often far more
             productive.

6.7 To date the City Council has stopped approximately 2,000 vehicles in Westminster
    operations executing hundreds of warrants for both Westminster and other local
    authorities. In addition to the local authority warrants the following information for
    2002/3 shows the additional benefit of the operations for the wider community:

6.8 Over a thousand vehicles have been stopped and inspected. Of these:

      184 vehicles were removed for local authority warrants (outstanding parking
       fines, failure to pay council tax etc.)
      110 vehicles were served with PG9 orders for being unroadworthy
      614 vehicles/drivers were searched and generated intelligence reports
      46 arrests were made for a variety of offences including, joy riding, driving whilst
       disqualified, drugs offences, possessing an offensive weapon, assault and
       others.
      88 drivers were found to have committed a variety of motoring offences such as
       driving without a licence, driving without insurance, vehicle with no MOT and
       vehicle defects such as steering or tyres. 85 endorseable fixed penalty notices
       were issued.
      55 were committing DVLA offences
      68 drivers were found to be under investigation for benefit fraud and other DSS
       related offences
      11 drivers were identified as illegal immigrants or overstayers.

6.9 During 2002/2003, Westminster spent approximately £54,000 on Operation
    Wendy and has spent a total of approximately £134,000 since it started in 2001.

6.10 The continuing pressure on the illegal minicab trade has had a positive impact. It
     has been recognised by both the Metropolitan Police and by personnel from the
     National Enforcement Agency that the quality of the vehicles is improving and only
     constant efforts will see the erasure of illegal and dangerous vehicles from the
     street.


                                        Page 4 of 5
6.11 At the moment these operations are funded solely by Westminster and the
     Metropolitan Police meet their own costs. The City Council is seeking funding from
     Transport for London or the Greater London Authority in order to carry on with
     these operations in future years. The City Council only recoups approximately
     38% of its costs from the warrants collected, but the operations are clearly
     benefiting the wider London community. Westminster is known as the pick up
     location for unsuspecting passengers / victims but all suburbs suffer the
     consequences of this illegal trade.


7.   Financial implications
7.1 There are no financial implications arising directly from this report.


8.   Conclusion

8.1 The problems caused by unlicensed mini-cabs in Westminster are being tackled
    through the City Council’s Operation Wendy, through the introduction of the
    licensing of private hire vehicles operators, drivers and the vehicles themselves
    and by innovative schemes such as that being proposed in the City of London
    outlined in Section 5.

8.2 Members are asked to note these developments, and it is considered that it may
    be worth inviting to a future meeting :-

     (a)       the PCO, to provide an update on the progress of licensing and the
               reasons why it has taken so long; and

     (b)       representatives of the Corporation of London, to talk about the scheme
               outlined in Section 5.




                    IF YOU HAVE ANY QUERIES ABOUT THIS REPORT
                OR WISH TO INSPECT ANY OF THE BACKGROUND PAPERS
                    PLEASE CONTACT MARTIN LOW ON 020 7641 1975
           EMAIL ADDRESS: mlow@westminster.gov.uk; FAX NUMBER 020 7641 2658




Background Papers
None




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