Calderdale Council is slowly moving towards common policies which would regulate driver training and driver suitability for hackney carriage, private hire and dual badge drivers across West Yorkshire and York.
The council’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee agreed to recommend to full council that it adopts a Driver Suitability Policy and while members felt some work needed to be done before they were completely happy with a new Driver Training Policy, for which the cost to drivers has still to be fully worked out, they were confident they could iron out any issues by the proposed implementation date.
Councillors agreed to Coun Daniel Sutherland’s (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) suggestion that remaining training policy issues are thrashed out by a working party in time for it to come back with the cost figure and still go to full council in time for the proposed implementation date across the area of September 2019.
If full council ratifies the suitability recommendation policy, that could be implemented from August 1, used to assess both new applicants and drivers seeking to renew their licence from that date.
The new Driver Training Policy requires new applicants to pass an advanced driving test, an English test, a local knowledge test, a test on the regulatory framework of the industry, professional standards training and test, safeguarding training and test, equalities and disability training and test and a practical wheelchair course.
There was broad agreement on the training policy but there were concerns over the proposed pass rate required for a test at the end of training and the amount the new policy might cost drivers.
Coun Faisal Shoukat (Lab, Park) said he had concerns about the cost of the test, cost of refresher training and the issues of a knowledge test and the proposed pass rate of 80 per cent.
“When I was at university that was ‘first’,” he said.
Coun Shoukat said he definitely supported training but was less in favour of set tests.
In terms of cost he said drivers could not afford it if it was too high – “we want it to be relatively easy for people to set up,” he said.
Officer Fiona Goldsmith said the council was not there to make profits where this issue was concerned and it was hoped costs could be kept down.
She also said refresher training would not contain a test although new applicants rather than renewals would have to take those required.
Coun Sutherland, who chaired the meeting, said when considering the pass rate threshold how difficult the tests would be was the issue.
Coun Rob Holden (Ind, Ryburn) said he thought the local knowledge test was a great idea.
Officers said some drivers had said they has satellite navigation to find addresses but not everyone had a postcode ready for where they wanted to go.
Coun Chris Pillai (Con, Brighouse) and Coun Pat Allen (Lib Dem, Elland) did not want to see standards outlined in the proposed policy diluted.
When discussing driver suitability policy there was broad agreement among committee members with some debate about “tariff” levels for suitability.
For example, potential drivers who had been convicted of offences which resulted in the death of another person or had been committed to cause death or serious injury, exploitation offences and sex and indecency offences would have their applications automatically refused, while other offences such as those involving drugs down to more minor traffic or vehicle related offences would all carry a tariff.
Any applicant convicted of supplying drugs would not have their application considered until ten years after the conviction had elapsed, to take one example.
Councillors did comment that although a seven year tariff would be imposed for drink driving or driving under the influence of drugs they felt that was certainly as serious as the ten year tariff for supply.
Coun Geraldine Carter (Con, Ryburn), Coun Pillai and Coun Allen all reiterated that the council’s primary duty was the safety of the public at all times.
Coun Sutherland said: “Given reasonable guidelines this makes it clear the council sees that the safety of the travelling public is paramount.”
In extensive consultation among drivers and other interested parties ranging from the police to members of the public almost 200 Calderdale people responded among around 1,000 or so across the county to both policies.