The Court of Appeal has this week heard an appeal by Wakefield City Council over the High Court’s decision to quash the authority’s decision fixing licensing fees for private hire vehicles and taxis.
In Rehman/Wakefield & PH Association, R (on the application of) v Wakefield Council  EWHC 3664 His Honour Judge Saffman, sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court, found in December last year that it was appropriate to quash the fees decision fixing the fee because it incorporated fees which in his view it ought not to have incorporated.
The council had been taken to judicial review by the Wakefield District Private Hire and Hackney Association.
HHJ Saffman held that Wakefield had wrongly interpreted section 70 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
In setting the fee Wakefield took into account as "costs in connection with the control and supervision of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles" the costs incurred by the council in enforcing action against drivers for such things as speeding, smoking in the taxi, dressing inappropriately, parking badly, using mobile phones, carrying excess passengers, not permitting the carrying of an assistance dog, inappropriate dress and various uncivil and/or illegal conduct. (“the Activities”)
HHJ Saffman said it seemed to him that the costs of enforcement in relation to these activities inevitably related to the activities of drivers rather than vehicles.
The judge added that it was “clear that Section 70(1)(c) [of the Local Government Act 1970] relates to the supervision and control of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles, not the supervision and control of drivers and enforcement steps in relation to the Activities in my view clearly relate to the activities of the driver, not the vehicle. That must be so even though it is the drivers that drive those vehicles.” [judge’s emphasis]
Francis Taylor Building said at the time of the High Court ruling that the claimants were making a claim for restitution on the basis that the council had overcharged PHV licence fees by incorporating the expenses involved in enforcement action relating to the activities in their assessment of the level of fees payable by owners and operators for a number of years. This claim is estimated to be worth more than £1m.
The Local Government Association is reported to have supported Wakefield Council in bringing the appeal.