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High Court Quashes Wakefield Taxi Fees

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High Court Quashes Wakefield Taxi Fees 11th December 2018

The High Court has handed down an important ruling relating to the extent to which licensing authorities can include the cost of enforcement activities.

In this case the Wakefield District Private Hire and Hackney Association challenged the fees set by Wakefield City Council in respect of taxi and private hire fees.

Kings Chambers reporting on the case stated: “Mr Rehman brought a claim for Judicial Review against Wakefield’s decision to set licensing fees for the next two years. Following the case of R (on the application of Cummings) v Cardiff City Council [2014] EWHC 2544 (Admin) it is well known that Councils ought to separate out the five streams of taxi licensing (comprising vehicles, drivers and operators), when collecting their licence fees. It is also settled law that there must be no cross subsidy within these streams. Councils must not use the licensing fees as an income generating scheme.

“Against this background, Mr Rehman took issue with the Council’s assignment of enforcement costs relating to drivers to private hire vehicle licence fees which he said did not constitute costs associated with the “control and supervision of vehicles”. This definition is taken from s.70 (2) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976. The difficulty confronting all Councils is that the fees for driver’s licences are set pursuant to s.53 of the Act which allows for “such a fee as they consider reasonable with a view to recovering the costs of issue and administration” in relation to the grant of the licence. The conundrum has always been whether the driver’s licence fee covers ongoing driver enforcement.”

The claim for Judicial Review in this case was made in such a way that restricted the Court to an interpretation of s.70(2) only. This approach was resisted by the council seeking a comprehensive resolution to the issue of statutory construction instead however the High Court preferred a narrow approach.

Francis Taylor Building, who represented the taxi association, stated that “His Honour Judge Saffman, sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court, held that the fees charged by Wakefield were unlawful. In particular, the Council had wrongly interpreted section 70 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 and had erroneously charged the costs of enforcement against drivers (for speeding, bad parking, dressing inappropriately and a miscellany of uncivil or illegal conduct) to the control and supervision of vehicles. Wakefield’s case had been that the costs were properly accounted for against vehicles because the errant drivers were driving vehicles. The learned judge described that as ‘stretching beyond breaking point’ the language of the section.”

As reported, the case is of wider importance as it dispels any suggestion that there is a general principle of law that licensing regimes should be self-financing.

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