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PostPosted: Tue Nov 26, 2019 7:36 pm 
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Wakefield Council challenges High Court taxi fees ruling in potentially landmark case

https://www.wakefieldexpress.co.uk/news ... 1-10123461

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Image: Wakefield Express

A district council has launched an appeal against a ruling that it's overcharged taxi drivers, in what could be a landmark case for the whole industry.

Wakefield Council is challenging a High Court decision last December that the £384 fee it charges taxi drivers for a licence to trade are unlawful.

Three of the UK's top judges are set to decide on the matter, which may see councils across the country forced to fork out millions to reimburse drivers.

Wakefield Council says the amount it charges is necessary to recover the costs of licensing vehicles, as well as the costs of policing the local industry and punishing cabbies who break the rules.

The local authority has been backed by the Local Government Association (LGA) in the case, as most other authorities charge taxi fees in a similar way.

But cabbies argue the fee should only cover the cost of issuing the licence, and nothing more.

At a Court of Appeal hearing in Leeds on Tuesday morning, Wakefield Council's barrister Sarah Clover said the authority was seeking "clarity and guidance" over the issue.

She said: "With the breadth of the duties and the things the council does, in relation to drivers, the critical question is, how is that to be funded?

"The council has always maintained, along with most, if not all other councils, that they are entitled to be refunded for that work.

"There's always been ambiguity about it but the issue is still ambiguous and unresolved."

Ms Clover suggested that the fees system used by the council was already used, nationwide, to licence lap dancing clubs and other sexual entertainment venues. That has not been challenged.

Arguing that the fees were used to help keep people in the Wakefield district safe, she added: "Not only can a faulty vehicle have an impact on public safety, but drivers as well."

Commenting on the complex nature of the case, the lawyer representing taxi drivers said there was a "shanty town of taxi legislation".

Gerald Gouriet QC said the "man on the Wakefield bus would raise an eyebrow" if he was told that the costs applied by the council covered regulation around "how a driver is dressed and whether or not they use offensive language".

He said: "It is my submission that the costs relating to the control and supervision of vehicles does not and cannot embrace costs arising from the enforcement against drivers."

The original case was brought to the High Court at the end of last year by the Wakefield District Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Association, after the council hiked its licence fee by 60 per cent.

The council was initially refused the right to appeal, but that decision was later overturned, leading to the Court of Appeal case.

The judges' final ruling on the matter is expected to be made next month.

If the appeal is lost, Wakefield Council may have to pay out in excess of £1m to drivers in cases dating back as far as 2004.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 26, 2019 10:21 pm 
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Gerald Gouriet QC said the "man on the Wakefield bus would raise an eyebrow" if he was told that the costs applied by the council covered regulation around "how a driver is dressed and whether or not they use offensive language".

Good point.

I'm relieved and delighted that the trade have got proper legal representation as this fella does know what he is talking about.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2019 8:11 am 
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He said: "It is my submission that the costs relating to the control and supervision of vehicles does not and cannot embrace costs arising from the enforcement against drivers."


Reading between the lines here it sounds like they're saying that using money from vehicle licensing to fund enforcement against drivers is wrong. Could the council not just move a proportion of the vehicle licence costs into the driver's badge cost? That would mean the driver's licence paid for driver enforcement and the vehicle licence paid for vehicle enforcement.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2019 2:48 pm 
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Ms Clover suggested that the fees system used by the council was already used, nationwide, to licence lap dancing clubs and other sexual entertainment venues. That has not been challenged.


what relevance is that to taxi licensing :roll:

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2019 3:07 pm 
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Karga wrote:
Quote:
He said: "It is my submission that the costs relating to the control and supervision of vehicles does not and cannot embrace costs arising from the enforcement against drivers."


Reading between the lines here it sounds like they're saying that using money from vehicle licensing to fund enforcement against drivers is wrong. Could the council not just move a proportion of the vehicle licence costs into the driver's badge cost? That would mean the driver's licence paid for driver enforcement and the vehicle licence paid for vehicle enforcement.



The Cardiff case made it clear to all Councils that there had to be 5 different accounts for Taxi/Private hire/operators fees and monies could not be used to cross subsidise.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 28, 2019 8:57 pm 
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Could the council not just move a proportion of the vehicle licence costs into the driver's badge cost?

Not under existing taxi/PH licensing laws.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 10, 2019 7:38 pm 
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Council's appeal dismissed by The Master of the Rolls.

https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2019/2166.html

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 10, 2019 8:17 pm 
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Sussex wrote:
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Could the council not just move a proportion of the vehicle licence costs into the driver's badge cost?

Not under existing taxi/PH licensing laws.

And those laws changed today. :sad:

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 10, 2019 8:31 pm 
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Sussex wrote:
Sussex wrote:
Quote:
Could the council not just move a proportion of the vehicle licence costs into the driver's badge cost?

Not under existing taxi/PH licensing laws.

And those laws changed today. :sad:

But, and I doubt this will cause the Master of the Rolls a loss of sleep, I think she is wrong.

The reason, I say, Parliament only wanted the actual processing costs to be covered by driver's licensing fees, is that driver's now have no way, other than by Judicial Review, to contest any increase in those fees.

Whilst now a council has to advertise vehicle and operator fees, in respect of drivers fees the court has now given councils carte blanche to charge any fees they want, and some more.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 11, 2019 8:05 pm 
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Wakefield Council loses appeal over taxi fees in potentially landmark case

Councils across the UK may have to pay out millions in compensation to taxi drivers after a potentially landmark Court of Appeal ruling. Wakefield Council has lost its appeal against a High Court judgement last year, which said they were overcharging local drivers who applied for a licence to trade.

That £384 fee included cash to help cover the costs of policing the industry and punishing drivers who broke the rules. But three of the UK's top judges have ruled that that approach, which has been adopted by many local authorities, is unlawful.

Solicitors for Wakefield Council had argued that the policy was necessary to make its licensing department run self-sufficiently. Although the Court of Appeal said councils can still recover the costs of enforcement action from the taxi trade, rather than the taxpayer, they will now have to do so differently.

Drivers claimed that the council is now facing a bill of more than £1m in repayments for cases dating back to 2004. The local authority disputes that figure, and says drivers were only overcharged over the course of last year. The council has also hit out at the High Court, claiming it failed to clarify what they were allowed to do at the original hearing 12 months ago.

The Wakefield District Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Association, which brought the original case before the courts last year, welcomed the ruling. Chairman Abdul Rehman said: "We are of course very pleased that the Court of Appeal agreed with us and the High Court.

"We hope now the law has been clarified, the council will agree to meet with us to discuss how the council can refund the monies it has overcharged vehicle owners to avoid further court action."

Glynn Humphries, the council's service director for the environment, said: “The legal position as to where enforcement costs could be attributed was unclear and (Wednesday's) judgement has clarified that the costs of enforcement should be met by the taxi trade through fees and should not be subsidised by the council tax payer.

“We very much welcome the clarity from (Wednesday's) judgement but are disappointed we didn’t get this in the High Court last year, which would have saved everyone involved time and money. "The council will now review our position in light of the judgement and set up a process to enable drivers to log any claims as easily as possible and try and ensure we assess the claims as quickly as we can.

"We strongly believe that the £1million figure quoted by the taxi trade association does not apply to Wakefield at all. "The fees were only applied to vehicles in January 2018 and charges were paused as we sought clarity from the court, which means that no drivers have been charged for this activity from December 2018. "Going forward we will ensure that all charges are set against the criteria confirmed by the court."

The Local Government Association (LGA), which had been supporting Wakefield Council over the case, declined to comment.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 12, 2019 7:10 pm 
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Can't be bothered reading the full judgement, and article above not much use in terms of the detail.

In particular, it uses the word 'drivers' to describe those affected, while I'm assuming the badge/plate distinction is the crux of the matter here.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 13, 2019 6:05 pm 
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StuartW wrote:
In particular, it uses the word 'drivers' to describe those effected, while I'm assuming the badge/plate distinction is the crux of the matter here.

The problem is the drivers (owner drivers) that won, are also the drivers that will lose out in the future.

Basically the court didn't receive submissions on the 'put the costs on drivers fees' issue, and IMO the court shouldn't have made a determination without receiving submissions on that.

I get why the local trade didn't say anything as they could have been left with a bill of 100s of 1000s if the case went against them, and I get why the council and the LGA didn't submit, as as long as they get their money they really couldn't care less where it came from.

Bit of a mess IMO. :sad:

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