Dear Bury Metropolitan Borough Council,

I am writing this Freedom of Information Request in relation to your Council's compliance or otherwise with the Government's statutory guidance on implementation of S165-167 of the Equality Act, relating to taxi services for wheelchair users. All taxi licensing bodies are obliged under S167(6) to have "due regard" to the document "Access for wheelchair users to taxis and private hire vehicles: statutory guidance" at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/sy... . The questions I raise below should be interpreted as requests for recorded information under the Freedom of Information Act.

I have previously made a similar request to you in April 2017. 6+ months later, I am requesting extra detail. I am doing so because the Statutory Guidance states "We would expect these arrangements to take no more than a maximum of six months to put in place, following the commencement of these provisions" - "these provisions" having been commenced on 6th April.

In response to my previous FOI request on similar matters in April 2017, you indicated that you have a Section 167 list.

1) Please could you confirm that you still have a S167 list or lists?

2) Assuming so, provide information in response to the following questions 2a) to 2j):
2a) The statutory guidance states "The Government therefore recommends that a vehicle should only be included in the authority’s (S167) list if it would be possible for the user of a “reference wheelchair” to enter, leave and travel in the passenger compartment in safety and reasonable comfort whilst seated in their wheelchair."
Is this the definition you have used for a taxi or PHV to be considered wheelchair accessible for the purposes of the list?

2b) The statutory guidance states: "Before drivers can be subject to the duties under section 165 of the Act, the LA must first publish their list of designated vehicles, and clearly mark it as ‘designated for the purposes of section 165 of the Act’. LAs should ensure that their designated lists are made easily available to passengers, and that vehicle owners and drivers are made aware. Lists should set out the details of the make and model of the vehicle, together with specifying whether the vehicle is a taxi or private hire vehicle, and stating the name of operator."
Have you published your list? Is it marked "designated for the purposes of Section 165 of the Act"? Is the make and model of each vehicle listed? Is each vehicle identified as a taxi or a private hire vehicle? Is the name of the operator of each vehicle given in the list? Have you made owners and drivers of vehicles on the list aware that their vehicle has been listed?

2c) The guidance states: "it would also be helpful to include information about the size and weight of wheelchair that can be accommodated, and whether wheelchairs that are larger than a “reference wheelchair” can be accommodated."
Does your list include information on each vehicle as to the size and weight of wheelchair that can be accommodated, and whether wheelchairs larger than a "reference wheelchair" can be accommodated?

2d) The guidance states: "We encourage LAs to provide drivers of taxis and PHVs who are not exempt from the duties with clear guidance on their duties with respect to the carriage of passengers in wheelchairs, either as part of existing driver-facing guidance, or as supplementary communication."
Have you provided non-exempt taxi/PHV drivers with such guidance?

2e) The guidance states: "We recommend that licensing authority rules for drivers are updated to make clear when a meter can and cannot be left running".
Have you updated such rules to make this clear?

2f) The guidance states: "Section 172 of the Act enables vehicle owners to appeal against the decision of a LA to include their vehicles on the designated list. That appeal should be made to the Magistrate’s Court, or in Scotland the sheriff, and must be made within 28 days of the vehicle in question being included on the LA’s published list."
Please tell me how many such applications have been made to the Magistrates Court, and how many have been successful.

2g) How many drivers has the authority prosecuted for discriminatory behaviour contrary to S165 of the Act? How many such prosecutions were successful? What were the sentences?

2h) How many drivers licensed by yourselves have been prosecuted by other people or bodies for failure to comply with S165 of the Act? How many such prosecutions were successful? What were the sentences?

2i) Where drivers have been prosecuted under S165 of the Act, thus affecting their standing as a "fit and proper person", what resultant disciplinary action have you taken in respect of their taxi or private hire vehicle drivers' licenses?

3) The Guidance states; "the Act allows LAs to grant exemptions from the duties to individual drivers. These provisions are contained in section 166, and were commenced on 1st October 2010."

3a) How many exemptions have you granted under S166 of the Equality Act 2010?

3b) The guidance states: "We understand that some licensing authorities have already put in place procedures for accessing and exempting drivers, and as an absolute minimum, we think that the evidence provided should be in the form of a letter or report from a general practitioner."
Do you accept or require a letter or report from a GP to process applications for driver exemption under S166?

3c) The guidance states: "The Government’s view is that decisions on exemptions will be fairer and more objective if medical assessments are undertaken by professionals who have been specifically trained and who are independent of the applicant. We would recommend that independent medical assessors are used where a long-term exemption is to be issued, and that LAs use assessors who hold appropriate professional qualifications and who are not open to bias because of a personal or commercial connection to the applicant"
Have you appointed independent medical assessors to determine applications for medical exemption under S166?

3d) Please provide a copy of your application form for driver exemption under S166.

3e) The guidance states: "Section 172 of the Act enables drivers to appeal against the decision of a LA not to issue an exemption certificate. That appeal should be made to the Magistrate’s Court, or a sheriff in Scotland, and must be made within 28 days beginning with the date of the refusal."
How many appeals against refusal to issue S166 exemptions have been heard?

3f) How many appeals against refusal to issue S166 exemptions were successful?

4) The guidance states: "We would therefore recommend that LAs also publish a list of vehicles that are accessible to passengers in wheelchairs who are able to transfer from their wheelchair into a seat within the vehicle. It should be made clear however that this list of vehicles has not been published for the purposes of section 165 of the Act and drivers of those vehicles are therefore not subject to the legal duties to provide assistance."
Do you currently publish a list of vehicles that are accessible to passengers in wheelchairs who are able to transfer from their wheelchairs into a seat within the vehicle?

Thank you

Yours faithfully,

Doug Paulley

Customer Contact Team,

6 Atodiad

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Thank you for contacting us regarding your FOI Request, your request has
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Should you need to speak to us regarding this, your reference is: 
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Dear Bury Metropolitan Borough Council,

What has happened to the response to my FOI request please? The 20 working day long-stop has passed.

Thank you

Yours faithfully,

Doug Paulley

Customer Contact Team,

6 Atodiad

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________________________________

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We aim to reply as soon as possible and this e-mail box is checked regularly. Our normal working hours are 8.45am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays. Only If your request is urgent and requires immediate attention please telephone 0161 253 6606.

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Dear Mr Paulley,

Request for Information - Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) Reference Number - 8063

I confirm receipt of your request for information below.

Your request is being dealt with under FOIA.

We will try to get a response within 10 working days, however, due to the length of your request it may take us longer to respond than the 10 days the ICO has given but I will keep you informed and you will be advised accordingly.

Should you have any queries, please respond using this email or contact me directly on 0161 253 5343.

Yours sincerely

Freedom of Information

Resources and Regulation

Bury Council, Department for Resources and Regulation
Second Floor, Town Hall, Knowsley Street, BL9 0SW

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Dear Trent HR,

You have had my request since 4 November 2017, why do you need a further 2 weeks or longer? It is my legal right and your obligation to respond "promptly, and in any case within 20 working days" and you are delaying my research by failing to comply with your legal obligation.

Yours sincerely,

Doug Paulley

Dear Mr Paulley,
 
Apologies for the delay in getting a response sent to you in relation to
your Freedom of Information Request. This was due to an admin error that
occurred at the time of the receipt of your request. Bury Council have
been contacted by the ICO regarding the delay to your request and we will
respond to the original request by the 22nd December 2017.
 
Once again, I apologise for the inconvenience this has caused you and I
ensure you that I will keep you updated if there are any further delays.
 
You can contact me directly on 0161 253 5343 if you have any further
queries.
 
Kind Regards,
 
Natalie
 
Freedom of Information
 
Resources and Regulation
 
Bury Council, Department for Resources and Regulation Second Floor, Town
Hall, Knowsley Street, BL9 0SW
 

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1 Atodiad

Hi Doug,

Please find attached the response to your FOI request below.

Kind regards,

Freedom of Information
Resources and Regulation

Bury Council, Department for Resources and Regulation
Second Floor, Town Hall, Knowsley Street, BL9 0SW

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Dear Trent HR,

Thank you for that information, it is useful.

I wonder if I could please ask you to check something.

In the response, your licencing team stated that they have prosecuted one driver for discriminatory behaviour contrary to S165 of the Act, that he received a fine and subsequently a 4 month suspension of his licence. This surprised me mightily because of the 114 licencing authorities who responded to my FOI request to state they have implemented this legislation, the other 113 have not prosecuted any drivers as yet.

I would have assumed that the first prosecution of a driver for failing to take a wheelchair user, contrary to this new legislation, would have attracted some publicity or comment. However, searching news sources reveals no such publicity. I am unable to identify any publicity about any driver who has been prosecuted for this offence.

However, whilst searching I identified that Bury council have made a press release about prosecuting a driver for discriminating against somebody with a guide dog: http://www.mynewsdesk.com/uk/bury-counci... NB: prosecution of this driver would not be prosecution for discriminatory behaviour counter to S165 of the Act, because S165 if the Equality Act deals ONLY with discriminatory behaviour towards wheelchair users, not towards people with guide dogs. S168 of the Equality Act deals with discrimination against guide dog users - and I asked about S165, not S168.

I am concerned that it is possible or likely that the Council has given incorrect information through its claim to have prosecuted a taxi driver for discriminating against a wheelchair user contrary to S165 of the Act. If the Council's original response is correct, then this prosecution is momentous news that should be spread far and wide, and will have a substantial impact on my research report update that I am scheduled to present to the DFT. So I want to make doubly sure.

As this is an expression of concern about the accuracy of the information provided by the Council under S1 of the Freedom of Information Act, I guess this constitutes a request for internal review.

Thank you

Yours sincerely,

Doug Paulley

Thank you for your email.

Please note that the Trent HR service will be closed from 5.00pm on Friday 22 December 2017 and will re-open on Wednesday 3 January 2018.

We would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Kind Regards

Trent HR

Dear Bury Metropolitan Borough Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Bury Metropolitan Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'S167 List of Accessible Taxis: update after 6 months - A existing list'.

I wrote the following which went to "Trent HR" but got an Out of Office response indicating they are now shut until 3rd January. But I wouldn't want my request for a review to be delayed, so I'm sending on to you. Thank you.

Dear Trent HR,

Thank you for that information, it is useful.

I wonder if I could please ask you to check something.

In the response, your licencing team stated that they have prosecuted one driver for discriminatory behaviour contrary to S165 of the Act, that he received a fine and subsequently a 4 month suspension of his licence. This surprised me mightily because of the 114 licencing authorities who responded to my FOI request to state they have implemented this legislation, the other 113 have not prosecuted any drivers as yet.

I would have assumed that the first prosecution of a driver for failing to take a wheelchair user, contrary to this new legislation, would have attracted some publicity or comment. However, searching news sources reveals no such publicity. I am unable to identify any publicity about any driver who has been prosecuted for this offence.

However, whilst searching I identified that Bury council have made a press release about prosecuting a driver for discriminating against somebody with a guide dog: http://www.mynewsdesk.com/uk/bury-counci... NB: prosecution of this driver would not be prosecution for discriminatory behaviour counter to S165 of the Act, because S165 if the Equality Act deals ONLY with discriminatory behaviour towards wheelchair users, not towards people with guide dogs. S168 of the Equality Act deals with discrimination against guide dog users - and I asked about S165, not S168.

I am concerned that it is possible or likely that the Council has given incorrect information through its claim to have prosecuted a taxi driver for discriminating against a wheelchair user contrary to S165 of the Act. If the Council's original response is correct, then this prosecution is momentous news that should be spread far and wide, and will have a substantial impact on my research report update that I am scheduled to present to the DFT. So I want to make doubly sure.

As this is an expression of concern about the accuracy of the information provided by the Council under S1 of the Freedom of Information Act, I guess this constitutes a request for internal review.

Thank you

Yours sincerely,

Doug Paulley

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/s...

Yours faithfully,

Doug Paulley

Customer Contact Team,

6 Atodiad

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Customer Contact Team

________________________________

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We aim to reply as soon as possible and this e-mail box is checked regularly. Our normal working hours are 8.45am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays. Only If your request is urgent and requires immediate attention please telephone 0161 253 6606.

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Bury Council
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Did you know what services are available at Whittaker St Digital Hub?

Monday to Friday 9am to 4.45pm

7 Internet Access pc's available for customers you will either need a library card or we can join you if you bring ID

Monday to Friday 9am to 4.45pm

An additional 7 pcs with access to Bury Council and Direct Gov with freephones to contact council offices/Six Town Housing and Step Change Debt Charity.

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Lomax, Angela,

 

Mr Paulley

Thank you for email sent 23 December 2017 00:34

I acknowledge its receipt and have noted its comments and your request for
an internal review. I will consider your request and aim to respond within
21 working days but anticipate this will be completed sooner.

Regards

Angela Lomax

Head of Trading Standards & Licensing

Bury Council

 

3 Knowsley Place

Duke Street

Bury

BL9 0EJ

 

Tel 0161 253 5049

email [email address]

secure email [email address]

 

 

 

 

 

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Lomax, Angela,

Mr Paulley
Further to my previous email I have now had the opportunity to review the details of your complaint and the information provided by the licensing service.
You are right in your email and Bury Licensing Service has incorrectly supplied information relating to the prosecution of a driver contrary to s165 of the Equality Act.
I apologise on behalf of the Licensing Service and Bury Council for this incorrect information. Bury Council has prosecuted a driver under section 168 and this was not meant to be misleading and is unfortunately due to human error .
Regards

Angela Lomax
Head of Trading Standards & Licensing
Bury Council
3 Knowsley Place
Duke Street
Bury
BL9 0EJ

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