R (on the application of Abdul Rehman on behalf of the Wakefield District Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Association) v Wakefield District Council and the Local Government Association (intervener) [2019] EWCA Civ 2166

The Court of Appeal’s judgement in the case of Rehman v Wakefield Council was handed down last week clarifying the law on taxi and private hire enforcement costs. 

We will look at the topic of fees in more depth in the January issue of the Private Hire and Taxi Monthly (PHTM) in our regular contribution.  In this article, we will briefly look at the case and what was decided.

Background

Wakefield Council imposed the cost of enforcement activity in relation to drivers on vehicle licence fees.  Wakefield’s Taxi and Private Hire Association challenged this on the basis that Wakefield’s calculations were unlawful on the basis that it is guilty of cross-subsidising fees.

Court of Appeal

King LJ and Lavender J in the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the Wakefield District Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Association but in doing so it also clarified the scope of the legislation in relation to taxi and private hire fees.

s.53 & s.70 LGMPA 1976

Section 53 relates to fees for driver licensing and section 70 for vehicle licensing.  In relation to Wakefield Council’s approach, the Court of appeal said: 

“We agree with HHJ Saffman that the cost of monitoring and enforcing driver conduct cannot be taken into account in fixing the vehicle licence fee under section 70.  We consider that the wording of section 70 in the context of the structure of the 1976 Act leads clearly to that conclusion, irrespective of the proper interpretation of section 53. We also consider, however, that such cost can be included in the driver’s licence fee under section 53.  It is regrettable that no one representing drivers appeared before HHJ Saffman or before us to argue that point, which is plainly relevant to the scope of section 70.”   

 

 

 “In any event, we consider that the costs of enforcing the behaviour of licensed drivers can be recovered through the driver’s licence fee under section 53(2). The relevant words in that provision are “the costs of issue and administration”. The costs of “administration” must be something other than, and in addition to, the costs of “issue”. There is no difficulty in interpreting “administration” in its statutory context as extending to administration of the licence after it has been issued.  It naturally includes the costs of suspension and revocation, which are events expressly mentioned in Part II of the 1976 Act. Suspension and revocation rest on non-compliance with the requirements and conditions for continuing to hold the licence. As we have said, it would, therefore, have been obvious to Parliament, when enacting the 1976 Act, that costs would be incurred by the district council in monitoring compliance with such requirements and conditions.”

What the case means?

The significance of the Court of Appeal’s ruling is that it clarified the correct procedure that councils must apply when setting taxi and private hire fees. 

Costs associated with monitoring and enforcing driver conduct must be factored into to driver licensing fees under section 53 not vehicle licence fees under section 70 as was the case in Wakefield.  The case reaffirmed the principle that cross-subsidisation of taxi and private hire fees is not permitted in law.

Stephen McCaffrey

Regulatory defence barrister specialising in taxi and private hire licensing law, appeals and defence.

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