The council has received the following information from the Local Government Association. The statement provides clarification regarding the wearing of face coverings in licensed vehicles.
Department for Transport
“The Secretary of State for Transport’s announcement that from 15 June face coverings will be required while using public transport in England does not cover taxis and private hire vehicles as the trade is already able to require (with limited exemptions) passengers to wear these. Taxi drivers are already able to refuse carriage to passengers where it is reasonable to do so, this might include those that are able but refuse to wear a face covering. Private hire vehicle operators can make the wearing of face covering a condition of hiring.
As the Prime Minister announced, the government will be expanding targeted testing of occupations and groups at higher risk. This will help us learn more about who is at higher risk and how the virus is spread. We know that many people working in a job which regularly brings them into close contact with people are worried about their risk of infection and that people from BAME backgrounds are heavily represented in some of these professions. Government will confirm full details of this scheme in the coming weeks.
It should be noted however that all symptomatic members of the public can already access testing and it is vital that everyone applies for a test if they develop symptoms.
DfT would encourage all licensing authorities to consider ways in which they can work with their licensees to support all reasonable measures to protect taxi and PHV drivers and passengers.”
From 6 July 2020 any vehicle due to be licensed/relicensed from that date will be subject to the normal taxi test requirements, ie a full taxi test undertaken at the VMU (the council's vehicle maintenance unit). The VMU station will be undertaking the work in compliance with government guidance on Coronavirus: MOT centre and tester guidance.
The reason for the change in policy is as follows:
- There is a legal requirement that the council should be satisfied as to the fitness of licensed vehicles. The aim is to keep to a minimum the timescales where vehicle testing is not carried out
- It is recognised that the majority of vehicles have not be used since March when the impact of the pandemic became obvious . As such the risk from vehicles not being tested has been dramatically reduced. It is also recognised that as things begin to move back towards normality the use of taxis/ private hire is starting to increase, and therefore the relevance of vehicle testing becomes key
- There is recognition that the oldest of vehicles require licensing every 4 months, we are heading towards 3 months since vehicle testing requirements were lifted . It is regarded as essential that testing is reintroduced prior to the older vehicles being relicensed
- The requirement for the taxi testing to be carried out at VMU as opposed to any MOT test station is to enable the non MOT items to be checked. Items such as cleanliness of the vehicle, security of taxi meters, provision of first aid/ fire extinguishers and vehicle signage do not form part of MOT requirements
It is acknowledged that there is a small possibility that the VMU testing facilities may have to be withdrawn (covid related). If such a situation arises the VMU business continuity plans will be activated, the council will nominate an authorised MOT station to carry out MOTs in place of taxi tests. Such tests may be supplemented by further inspection from licensing officers.
Officers from the licensing unit will within the next 10 working days contact all vehicle proprietors whose vehicles are due for renewal in July (from the 6th inclusive) to advise of the recommencement of vehicle testing.
Vehicle test appointments will be made available at the VMU with effect from 15 June to allow a three-week lead in period for testing to take place before the commencement date of 6 July
Vehicle test appointments will be booked in the usual way via the Licensing team. The most efficient way to contact the licensing team during the pandemic is by email at email@example.com. The contact phone number of 01524 582033 is still in use but with some officers working remotely there are less officers available in Morecambe town hall.
Requirement for passengers to wear face coverings when travelling on public transport – Published 8 June 2020
The following statement outlines the Government’s intention which confirms these intentions will be implemented by changes to “National Rail Conditions of Travel and the Public Service Vehicle Regulations for buses”. The statement makes reference to trains, buses, aircraft and ferries. The statement makes no reference to hackney carriage or private hire vehicles.
Based on the statement we have no reason to believe that the requirement to wear face coverings will be extended to passengers travelling in hackney carriages and/or private hire vehicles. However, a definitive answer will only become clear on publication of the legislative changes.
Extract from statement made 4 June By Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP: Updated guidance – face coverings
Second, I can announce that, as of Monday 15 June, face coverings will become mandatory on public transport. That doesn’t mean surgical masks, which we must keep for clinical settings. It means the kind of face covering you can easily make at home. There’ll be exceptions to the rule for very young children, disabled people and those with breathing difficulties. But broadly, as we come through this phase, we’re doing what many other countries have asked transport users to do. And as passenger numbers increase, and we expect this trend to continue, we need to ensure every precaution is taken, on buses, trains, aircraft and ferries. With more people using transport, the evidence suggests that wearing a face covering offers some – albeit limited – protection against the spread of the virus. A face covering helps protect our fellow passengers. It is something that we can each do to help each other. And whilst it also remains true that measures like maintaining social distance and washing your hands remain most critical, we also know that, on public transport, keeping two-metres apart is not always possible, all of the time. Indeed, the guidance explicitly recognises this fact.
So, when more people return to the network, from the 15 June onwards, they will be required to wear a face covering on our transport network. We’ll make these rules changes under the National Rail Conditions of Travel and the Public Service Vehicle Regulations for buses. This will mean you can be refused travel if you don’t comply and could be fined. Alongside transport operators, this will be enforced by the British Transport Police, as necessary. But I expect the vast majority of people won’t need to be forced into this, because wearing a face-covering helps to protect others, and most people simply want to help defeat this disease. Of course, frontline staff – those in contact with passengers, doing such an important job at this crucial time – will also need to wear face coverings. In the coming days, the government will work with unions, who have been supportive for which I am grateful, transport operators and police to ensure they have the supplies they need to be safe and provide reassurance to the public. These measures apply in England, and we are working with the devolved administrations ahead of implementation.
Position statement: Use of safety screens/partitions in licensed vehicles (20 May)
Advice Letter from Department for Transport (13 May)
Assisting the trade
- The Self-employment Income Support Scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. This may be extended if needed. More information on the scheme is available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme
- The above is perhaps particularly relevant to the taxi and PHV trade but it is part of the measures announced, e.g. changes to Universal Credit - more info is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/support-for-those-affected-by-covid-19/support-for-those-affected-by-covid-19
Assistance for businesses
- The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19. More information on the measures is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses
Renewal documentation is being posted out this week, the renewal letters have been amended to reflect the temporary arrangements currently in place. The driver renewals being issued this week relate to June 2020, operators and vehicle renewals relate to May 2020. Driver renewals are issued in advance to allow for completion and return of criminality checks (DBS) which may be delayed due to issues related to corona virus.
The frequency of Government updates in respect of the pandemic means that licensing processes are in a state of almost constant change. Please be aware that by the time you submit your renewal application, the situation may have changed . You are strongly advised to check this website before the submission of your renewal application, and in respect of driver renewals submit your DBS paperwork as soon as possible. If you have any questions please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Taxis and private hire vehicles can continue to work. But the advice is absolutely clear - people should stay at home if possible. That is the way to save lives and protect our NHS. The public should avoid travel unless absolutely essential. The only reasons to leave our houses are set out in the government guidance.
Clearly if absolutely necessary to travel by taxi or private hire vehicle, best efforts should be used to follow the guidance as far as is practically possible, including washing your hands as soon as you get home.
Critical Worker Status
Taxi and private hire drivers should not generally be considered Critical Workers. Those undertaking home to school transport or the transport of extremely vulnerable people may be considered Critical Workers on a case-by-case basis.
Critical Workers should also whenever possible make suitable arrangements for their children to stay at home, and requests for children to attend school should be discussed with the school.
Last updated: 19 June 2020