December 12th, 2019 by James Goudie KC

The fixing by local authorities of fees for taxis and minicabs has been considered by the Court of Appeal in R (Rehman) v Wakefield Council and LGA (2019) EWCA Civ 2166.  The charging power is Section 70 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 (“the 1976 Act”). The Council’s case was not accepted that the costs of enforcing drivers’ conduct fell within Section 70 of the Act.  The Court of Appeal said that it was clear from the wording of Section 70 in the context of the Act that the cost of monitoring and enforcing driver conduct could not be taken into account in fixing the vehicle licence fee.  Part II of the Act provided for distinct and detailed regimes for (a) vehicle licences for taxis and private hire vehicles; (b) drivers’ licences; and (c) operators’ licences.  Each type of licence was governed by a comprehensive and self-contained statutory regime which addressed grant, terms, suspension, revocation and fee. There was no cross-referencing in relation to any of those matters. Thus, the notion that the fee for one type of licence could reflect the costs involved in another was entirely contrary to the structure of the Act. The “control and supervision” referred to in Section 70 was control and supervision by the local authority, not the driver.  It would be a strained and artificial interpretation of those words to claim that the local authority controlled the vehicle by monitoring and enforcing the driver’s behaviour. Moreover, the words in Section 70 could not have been intended by Parliament to authorise something entirely alien to the structure of Part II of the Act in view of its comprehensive self-contained regime for each category of licence. Nor could the proper interpretation of the legislation governing a licensing regime be affected by resource considerations.

However, there is plainly a need for the local authority to monitor compliance with the requirements and conditions attached to each type of licence, which inevitably involves expense beyond the cost of the original grant of the licence.  This need is met in the case of vehicles and operators’ licences under Section 70, but in the case of drivers’ licences under Section 53 of the Act.  The costs of “administration” in Section 53 are additional to the costs of issue, and, in the statutory context, extend to the administration of the licence after it has been issued, including the costs of monitoring and enforcing the behaviour of licensed drivers.

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