Recommendation from the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee on the 27 January 2020.
Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council currently have no licensed Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles available for hire as a hackney carriage in their fleet. For disabled users, particularly those with mobility impairment, availability of public transport is crucial in daily life. Under the Equality Act 2010 the Council must be seen to promote access and eliminate barriers in relation to discrimination. If the Council is seen to be discriminating to disabled users there is a risk of legal action under the Equality Act 2010.
The Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Statistics 2019 England show that Welwyn and Hatfield are the only authority across all of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire to not have any licensed WAV’s. Resident population in Welwyn Hatfield in mid-2017 totalled 122,300. Of those 15,908 stated long term health and disability including mobility.
The consultation into this issue identified 750 agencies and individuals, including the taxi trade, all of which were consulted with by way of individual surveys and public meetings over the period of 2018 and 2019 which showed a clear need for wheelchair accessible vehicles in the borough. New Hackney Carriage vehicle standard conditions have been approved by sub-group committee members. At the Environment and Overview Scrutiny Committee in January 2020 it was agreed that the proposed standard conditions be put forward to Full Council for agreement and adoption with the Equality Act 2010 in mind. Unfortunately, the Coronavirus pandemic prevented this matter being bought before an earlier Council meeting.
It is possible that drivers may challenge the introduction of these standard conditions but also we need to remind ourselves that failure to adopt these conditions could result in challenge by disability groups and individuals, especially as we are the only authority in Hertfordshire not to have a wheelchair accessible fleet.
These issues were discussed at both the working group and the subsequent EOSC meeting and the recommendations have therefore been put forward.
The second recommendation relates to the adoption date of the new standard conditions and it is worth noting that the original EOSC report stated that the new standard conditions be adopted form 1 April 2020. As we were unable to bring this to an earlier Council meeting, the date of adoption now needs to be decided
Following receipt of a letter, dated 7 July 2020, from Mr Richard Bunday and receipt of an email, on 17 July, from the office of the Rt Hon Grant Shapps, an late addendum to the report has been submitted. The Addendum report addresses the points raised by Mr Bunday in his letter and brings to the attention of Members the concern which has been communicated by a resident hackney carriage driver to the office of the Rt Hon Grant Shapps.
Members will note the further Officer Recommendation which is contained in the Addendum report, seeking approval for implementation of the revised standard conditions with effect from 1 October 2020.
It was moved and seconded by Councillors F.Thomson and T.Kingsbury and
(1) That the revised Standard Conditions for the Licensing of Hackney Carriage Vehicles be adopted.
(2) That the proposed implementation date of 1 October 2020 for the revised Standard Conditions for the Licensing of Hackney Carriage Vehicles was agreed.