When you are issued by Vale of White Horse District Council with a licence to drive a taxi, they provide you with a standard set of conditions which state that you have to comply with provisions relating to Hackney Carriages contained within the Town Police Clauses Act 1847.
Taxi licensing is a complex matter, with over one hundred pages of regulations and documentation issued to drivers and operators in this district alone. There is also other legislation, such as the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976, all of which a taxi driver needs to be aware of and comply with, as a condition of their licence. We must be one of the most regulated of all small business operating in Oxfordshire.
Existing district councils have considerable leeway in setting taxi regulations for their own local area, precisely because trade is very different from a large rural area with a number of towns like Abingdon, Wantage, Didcot, and Wallingford than it is in the city of Oxford, only seven miles away from where I am plying for hire in Abingdon.
The Institute of Licensing held a "Taxi/Private Hire Licensing Event" in Oxford last week, with a deputy Police & Crime Commissioner addressing it and the clear implication that taxi licensing might become a three counties wide responsibility.
And Oxfordshire County Council this year submitted a bid to the Government for a single unitary authority, to cover the whole of Oxfordshire. In the bid documentation, there is barely any reference to the taxi business but among the reasons cited for the change are "a single point of contact for services”.
These recent developments are presently short on detail, but they do beg the question as to what is to happen with the existing district council licensing areas. A conversation with a long serving local councillor in my taxi recently indicated that one possibility could be, north, central and south Oxfordshire licensing areas.
In the city of Oxford, the number of Hackney Carriage vehicle licences issued is restricted, meaning there is a higher earning potential for those who possess them. On the rare occasions that the vehicle licences change hands in these authorities, the price can run into tens of thousands of pounds.
But in Abingdon, just seven miles away in Vale of White Horse, there is no resale value to Hackney Carriage licences, which have been handed out for several years to those who legally go to work for Oxford private hire companies.
In conversation with local policy makers who have been passengers in my taxi, I do always try my best. But I do wonder whether those who bear the responsibility really have any meaningful realisation of the effect of what they advocate on the ability of hard working local Hackney Carriage drivers to continue to be able to earn their living. And we are a trade which every day provides essential services to vulnerable and less well off neighbours in Oxfordshire.
As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 24 May 2017
- Vale of White Horse District Council, Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Drivers Conditions and Code of Conduct (PDF 22 Kb), 01 January 2013, as consulted 23 May 2017
- Vale of White Horse District Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Joint Taxi Licensing Policy (PDF 975.5 Kb), 01 January 2013, updated 26 February 2015, as consulted 23 May 2017
- The Institute of Licensing, Taxi/Private Hire Licensing Event with Thames Valley Police and Crime Panel, 19 May 2017, as consulted 23 May 2017
- Oxfordshire County Council, Better Oxfordshire unitary bid officially submitted to government, 23 March 2017, as consulted 23 May 2017
- Oxfordshire County Counci, Vale of White Horse District Council South Oxfordshire District Council, A New Council For A Better Oxfordshire, as consulted 23 May 2017