Transport for London recently rejected Uber’s application for a new licence in London. In reaching the decision TfL concluded that the company is not a ‘fit and proper’ private car hire operator.
Specifically, it considered that “Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility”, particularly in relation to reporting serious criminal offences, obtaining medical certificates and driver background checks. Concerns were also identified with regards to Uber’s use of software that can be used to block regulatory bodies from gaining full access to its app and undertaking regulatory or law enforcement tasks.
Whilst the decision in relation to Uber has divided opinion, it does raise an interesting point as to what constitutes ‘fit and proper’ and why it and other relevant considerations prior to the granting of a licence are so important.
In simple terms the ‘Fit and Proper Person Test’ (the test) is integral to the licensing process because a primary objective of any local authority must be safeguarding the public. Many of those who use taxis and private hire vehicles can fairly be described as potentially vulnerable, for example the very young or elderly, the drunken reveller in the early hours of the morning or even the foreign visitor who has never been to the area before and who doesn’t understand the language or the currency.
In order to protect these groups, the wider public and indeed the reputation of the profession it is important that only those who inspire trust and confidence be granted a licence.
The Local Government Association (LGA) issues guidance on taxi and private hire vehicle licensing. The LGA does, however, urge local authorities to develop their own policies to ensure that they not only meet the legal requirements but also address the specific needs of their local areas.
Whilst there is not therefore a one size fits all approach, there are a number of points which will always be considered including:
(i) the applicant’s right to live and work in the country
(ii) an enhanced criminal record check and evidence that the applicant is not on a relevant barring list. (Most authorities will have a specific policy in respect of convictions – they will have regard to all convictions whether spent or not. A licence is unlikely to be granted to anyone with convictions for violence, drugs or dishonesty unless a significant period of time has passed during which they have been conviction free)
(iii) medical fitness
(iv) driving experience (normally a minimum of 3 years post qualification or evidence of successful completion of an advanced driving assessment)
(v) whether the applicant has sufficient literacy and numeracy skills, as well as the ability to speak and understand English to a level which makes them able to provide the service which they wish to be licensed for
(vi) safeguarding awareness especially in relation to sexual exploitation and disability
The rationale is therefore clear and indeed hardly surprising- local authorities must adopt an approach which ensures the safety of the public. That being said, however, if you have been refused a licence or had your licence revoked all is not lost. As noted it is not a prescriptive approach and each case must be judged on its own merits. Any applicant who is refused has the right to appeal to the Magistrates’ Court within 21 days of the notice of refusal.
Given the potentially far – reaching consequences for those who are refused a licence it is advisable to seek assistance before embarking upon a legal challenge. Our lawyers can assist you with drafting and presenting submissions aimed at keeping you on the road. If you require our assistance please call on 0161 827 1800.