Agenda item

Hackney Carriage Vehicles Unmet Demand Survey


The Committee considered the report of the Head of Housing and Community Services setting out the results of the Hackney Carriage Unmet Demand Survey carried out by Vector Transport Consultancy and outlining the options available to the Council.  It was noted that:


·  The survey had concluded that there was no significant unmet demand for Hackney Carriages in Maidstone at present, and no compelling need to increase the number of Hackney Carriage vehicle licences on the basis of public benefit.


·  Best Practice Guidance issued by the Department for Transport in relation to Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing recommended that quantity restrictions should not be imposed.


·  Whilst surveys commissioned by the Council in recent years had indicated that there was no significant unmet demand, there were requests from licensed drivers to obtain Hackney Carriage vehicles and they often stated that they were aggrieved that they were prevented from obtaining a Hackney Carriage vehicle licence due to the limit on numbers.


·  The Hackney Carriage trade had stated that licensing more vehicles would affect their livelihoods, but case law stated that whilst this must be considered if it takes place, it was not in itself a justification for maintaining a limit.


·  Maidstone was now thought to be one of less than a quarter of all local authorities which still restricted the number of Hackney Carriage vehicles.  In most cases where quantity restrictions were imposed, vehicle licence plates commanded a premium, often thousands of pounds, which indicated that people wanted to enter the taxi market, but were prevented from doing so by the quantity restrictions.


·  Where it was intended to delimit the number of licences available, a mechanism of quality control was normally introduced, and this was usually by specifying the type of vehicle that could be licensed as a Hackney Carriage vehicle.  The standard in Maidstone was already very high and was limited to three types of vehicle: the TX, Mercedes Vito Taxi and the Peugeot E7 Taxi.


·  The limit on Hackney Carriage vehicles currently stood at 48.


·  In terms of the options available, the Council had the discretion to:


Maintain the current limit; or

Issue additional plates as it saw fit; or

Remove the numerical limit.


In response to questions, the Officers explained that:


·  If the Council decided to deregulate and issue an unlimited number of licences, market forces would come into play to balance supply and demand.  When Sevenoaks District Council removed quantity controls, concerns were expressed by the trade that there would be a risk of over-supply.  In the event, the number of vehicles had increased from 191 to 199-209.


·  There had been a limited response to the taxi trade consultation given the overall number of Hackney Carriage and Private Hire vehicle drivers.


·  Issues of concern identified by the Mystery Shopper survey had been followed up and appropriate action had been taken.


·  A standard formula was used to calculate the incidence of Significant Unmet Taxi Demand.  However, given the projected housing growth in the Borough, the potential impact on the demand for and supply of taxis could be included in any future consultation.


·  Further information could be provided as to how other local authorities were dealing with the deregulation of taxi services.  It was not good practice for unmet demand surveys to be paid for by the local taxi trade except through general revenues from licence fees.  If the decision was taken to remove the limit on the number of Hackney Carriage vehicles, the trade could be asked to consider using the funds saved as a result of not having to undertake the unmet demand surveys in future to provide heaters in vehicles independent of the engine.


·  Licensing Officers continued to carry out monthly evening inspections to ensure the law regarding Hackney Carriage and Private Hire vehicles was adhered to.  This included checking for out of area operators.  A penalty points system had been adopted which acted as a first step in ensuring compliance with licensing policy conditions.  Points were accumulated on a sliding scale dependent upon the type of offence or breach of licence conditions.  If a driver, proprietor or operator accumulated twelve or more points within a period of one year from the date they were imposed, he/she would then be brought before the Licensing Committee.  An update could be provided on the number of drivers issued with points.


·  The incidence of queuing at ranks around Maidstone was taken into account when calculating the Index of Significant Unmet Demand.


·  The split between Hackney Carriage and Private Hire vehicles varied across the Partnership.  In Maidstone there was a high proportion of Private Hire vehicles (250+ compared to 48 Hackney Carriage vehicles).  There were various reasons for this, including the requirement for all Hackney Carriage vehicles to be wheelchair accessible and the urban/rural balance.


·  For Private Hire vehicle drivers, the issue of new plates was seen as an opportunity to access the Hackney Carriage trade without the need to buy a “plated vehicle” or to pay to rent a “plated vehicle”.  All Hackney Carriage drivers surveyed felt that there was no need to issue new plates and that the current limit should be maintained in order to limit additional competition and dilution of earnings.




1.  That the results of the Unmet Demand Survey carried out by Vector Transport Consultancy be noted.


2.  That the Head of Housing and Community Services be instructed to undertake a 12 week consultation with stakeholders on the following three options for Hackney Carriage vehicle licences with a view to a report back to the Licensing Committee at the earliest opportunity to enable a recommendation to be made to the Communities, Housing and Environment Committee:


  Maintain the current limit on Hackney Carriage numbers; or

Issue any number of additional vehicle licences as appropriate; or

Remove the limit on Hackney Carriage numbers.


Supporting documents: