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GMB PERSPECTIVE


LICENSING FEES AND THE RIGHT FOR ANYONE TO SUBMIT AN FOI TO THEIR COUNCIL


PART 1:


We all know how it is when it comes to renewing your driver and vehicle licences. It’s like.... “Here we go again.. more demands for money”... but we pay


up with no questions asked. However I would advise that from now on you start putting questions in about how much you are paying and more importantly how much of your money your council is currently hanging on to.


As you will probably know, no council is allowed to make a profit from licensing fees and all such funds raised must be ring-fenced. This means that your hard-earned money that you have paid for your licensing renewals cannot be spent on the councils dog wardens (do they still have these?) or indeed anywhere else.


Legislation permits a council to recover all or part of the costs of providing the taxi licensing service which will include its administration and control, such as enforcement. Surpluses must be carried forward and deficits may be car- ried forward to future years within each ring-fenced licensing budget.


I would like to think that most councils are extremely efficient at keeping on top of how much your fees are going to be. However, I currently know of two councils that appear not to know how to properly set licensing budgets.


If you have read any of my previous articles then you will be very aware of my dealings with Lewes District Council - which is next door to Brighton & Hove - that became a ‘soft licensing’ area for Uber with a huge majority of the 500 plus LDC private hire vehicles predominantly working in Brighton & Hove.





This of course is as we all know a practice actively encour- aged by Uber all over the country. I have previously expressed my views on the ‘efficiency’ of the LDC Licensing Department whilst also having a touch of sympa- thy with the 93 per cent increase in demand of licence applications as recorded in a 2019 DfT report which was highlighted alongside the infamous Wolverhampton City Council.


So, out of interest I decided to submit an Freedom of Information request regarding LDC licensing fees income and expenditure. I don’t have enough room here to go into the finer details, but the ultimate finding was that the council has been holding onto a staggering excess of over £300k which is money paid by licence holders built up over a num- ber of years.


The Freedom of Information request format I used sets out information required over several years which would show any surplus or deficit to be carried forward. This will demonstrate whether whoever makes the decision on how much fees will be from one year to another has had full financial control.


I suppose it is not surprising that LDC has refused to put in writing a verbal statement made in a web-meeting when we spoke about this financial position. In fact the doors have been firmly slammed shut on me.


LDC has been holding onto a staggering excess of over £300k which is money paid by licence holders...!


44 ”


Because Eastbourne Borough Council shares licensing facilities with Lewes District Council, I thought it would be interesting to also submit the very same FOI request on its own taxi/private hire licensing fees. However this came back as being rejected on grounds which I considered to be totally unreasonable!


APRIL 2021


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