Dear Fife 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 two similar requests to you, one in April 2017 and one in November 2017. I am now requesting an update to assess the impact of implementing this legislation, 12 months after it was commenced. Please note: this request is not identical to my previous requests and in any case asks for updated information as of the time of sending the request. It is therefore not appropriate to respond simply "see previous answer" or "situation unchanged".

In response to my previous FOI request on similar matters in November 2017, you indicated that you did not currently have any active plans to implement a S167 list.

1) The Government guidance states: "Whilst LAs are under no specific legal obligation to maintain a list under section 167, the Government recommends strongly that they do so. Without such a list the requirements of section 165 of the Act do not apply, and drivers may continue to refuse the carriage of wheelchair users, fail to provide them with assistance, or to charge them extra."
Please can you indicate whether you have now implemented a list of wheelchair accessible taxis under your powers set out in Section 167 of the Equality Act 2010, and/or a list of wheelchair accessible private hire vehicles?

2) If you do now have such a list, please provide information in response to the following questions 2a) to 2j):
2a) On what date was it put in place?
2b) 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?

2c) 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?

2d) 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?

2e) 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?

2f) 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?

2g) 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.

2h) 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?

2i) 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?

2j) 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) If you do not have a S167 list or lists now, please indicate if you still intend to produce such a list.

4) Irrespective of whether you have created a list or not or indeed whether you intend to create such a list, since 2010 you have been obliged to process applications under Section 166 of the Equality Act for driver medical exemptions from the duty to transport and not discriminate against wheelchair users. 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."

4a) How many exemptions have you granted under S166 of the Equality Act 2010?

4b) 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?

4c) 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?

4d) Please provide a copy of your application form for driver exemption under S166.

4e) 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?

4f) How many appeals against refusal to issue S166 exemptions were successful?

5) 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?

6) I am interested in why some local authorities have not decided to create a S167 list, despite the Government guidance advising they do so. Please tell me why you have not as yet decided to implement a S167 list.

Thank you

Doug Paulley

Fife Council

Dear D Paulley,

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION (SCOTLAND) ACT 2002 – REQUEST FOR INFORMATION

Thank you for your information request received on 04/05/2018 our reference: FCIR 21875. This is being dealt with in terms of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

We are presently assessing your request and may be in touch soon to ask for further clarification or to offer advice and assistance if we are not able to fulfil your request in its present form.

The legislation allows us up to 20 working days from the date that we receive a valid request, including any clarification we require, to make a final response. We will be in touch within 20 working days of receipt of your initial request to provide our response or to seek clarification where necessary. We hope to provide you with the information you are looking for at an earlier date where possible.

Yours sincerely,

S Guthrie
Information Management & Requests Team

Shannon Guthrie, Fife Council

Dear D Paulley,

 

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION (SCOTLAND) ACT 2002 – REQUEST FOR INFORMATION

 

I refer to your email dated and received 04/05/2018, our reference: FCIR
21875. 

 

I am pleased to provide the information you requested and trust that it
meets your requirements.

 

1.       The Government guidance states: "Whilst LAs are under no specific
legal obligation to maintain a list under section 167, the Government
recommends strongly that they do so. Without such a list the requirements
of section 165 of the Act do not apply, and drivers may continue to refuse
the carriage of wheelchair users, fail to provide them with assistance, or
to charge them extra."

Please can you indicate whether you have now implemented a list of
wheelchair accessible taxis under your powers set out in Section 167 of
the Equality Act 2010, and/or a list of wheelchair accessible private hire
vehicles? 

 

-          No.

 

2.       If you do now have such a list, please provide information in
response to the following questions 2a) to 2j):

 

-          N/A

 

 

3.       If you do not have a S167 list or lists now, please indicate if
you still intend to produce such a list. NO INFO. HELD

 

4.       Irrespective of whether you have created a list or not or indeed
whether you intend to create such a list, since 2010 you have been obliged
to process applications under Section 166 of the Equality Act for driver
medical exemptions from the duty to transport and not discriminate against
wheelchair users. 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."

 

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

 

-          None were applied for.

 

b)      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?

 

-          We would require a report from G.P.

 

c)       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?

 

-          No

 

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

 

-           N/A

 

e)      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?

 

-           N/A

 

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

 

-           N/A

 

5.       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?

 

-          No

 

6.       I am interested in why some local authorities have not decided to
create a S167 list, despite the Government guidance advising they do so.
Please tell me why you have not as yet decided to implement a S167 list.

 

-           Fife Council does not plan to implement a S167 list.

 

I would like to draw your attention to the copyright situation in relation
to the material.

 

The council holds the copyright for all of the material provided and it
may be reproduced free of charge in any format or media without requiring
specific permission. This is subject to the material not being used in a
derogatory manner or in a misleading context. The source of the material
must be acknowledged as Fife Council and the title of the document must be
included when being reproduced as part of another publication or service.

 

If you are not satisfied with the way we have handled your request, you
have the right to request a review of the decision. Please write to: Head
of Legal Services, Finance & Corporate Services, Fife House, North Street,
Glenrothes, KY7 5LT or e-mail to [email address]. The law provides
for you to make this request up to 60 working days from when we received
your enquiry or 40 working days from when you receive this correspondence
whichever is the later date. Where the outcome of the review fails to
resolve the matter to your complete satisfaction you have the right to
apply to the Scottish Information Commissioner for a
decision.www.itspublicknowledge.info/Appeal

 

Fife Council will consider and seek to resolve any request to the Head of
Legal Services that falls outside these time scales.

 

Yours sincerely

 

S Guthrie

Information Management Request Team

 

                

 

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