S167 List of Accessible Taxis: update after 6 months - E previous no intent

The request was successful.

Dear Northampton 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 repeating the request with some variations. I am repeating 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 did not have any Section 167 lists and did not at that time have any intent to create such a 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 changed your position since April, such that you do now have 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 intend to produce such a list.

4) If you don't have a S167 list but do intend to produce one, please provide information in response to questions 4a) and 4b) below.
4a) Please indicate when you intend to have the list in place.
4b) Where you have already made relevant decisions, please indicate whether you intend to comply with the elements of the statutory guidance set out in 2b) to 2f) above.

5) 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."

5a) How many exemptions have you granted under S166 of the Equality Act 2010?

5b) 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?

5c) 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?

5d) Please provide a copy of your application form for driver exemption under S166.

5e) 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?

5f) How many appeals against refusal to issue S166 exemptions were successful?

6) 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

Requests, Northampton Borough Council

Please accept this response as acknowledgement that your request has been received by the Council. Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 the Council has 20 working days in which to respond to your request. Under the Data Protection Act 1998 the Council has 40 days in which to respond to your request.

If you require any further information regarding this request please see contact details below.

Information Governance, The Guildhall, Northampton, NN1 1DE. Tel 01604 838536/837409. Fax No 01604 837057

Please note that the contents of this e-mail, including any attachments thereto, may contain information which is confidential or privileged, and which is solely for the use of the recipient named above. The information contained in this e-mail, and in your reply, may be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or other legislation, and its confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. If you are not the intended recipient, please be aware that any disclosure, copying, distribution or use of the contents of this e-mail is strictly prohibited.

Northampton Borough Council, The Guildhall, Northampton, United Kingdom, NN1 1DE
+44 (0)300 330 7000
www.northampton.gov.uk

Dear Requests,

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

Thank you

Yours sincerely,

Doug Paulley

Requests, Northampton Borough Council

Please accept this response as acknowledgement that your request has been received by the Council. Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 the Council has 20 working days in which to respond to your request. Under the Data Protection Act 1998 the Council has 40 days in which to respond to your request.

If you require any further information regarding this request please see contact details below.

Information Governance, The Guildhall, Northampton, NN1 1DE. Tel 01604 838536/837409. Fax No 01604 837057

Please note that the contents of this e-mail, including any attachments thereto, may contain information which is confidential or privileged, and which is solely for the use of the recipient named above. The information contained in this e-mail, and in your reply, may be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or other legislation, and its confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. If you are not the intended recipient, please be aware that any disclosure, copying, distribution or use of the contents of this e-mail is strictly prohibited.

Northampton Borough Council, The Guildhall, Northampton, United Kingdom, NN1 1DE
+44 (0)300 330 7000
www.northampton.gov.uk

Requests, Northampton Borough Council

2 Attachments

Mr Paulley, as you can see from the attached your request was responded to on 1st December.

Unfortunately however the response appears to have been sent to your original email account with whatdotheyknow (for your earlier request) and not the email associated with your current request.

I apologise for the error and have reminded those recording new requests to ensure details are updated in respect of whatdotheyknow email addresses as each new request has a new unique reference number.

I trust you are satisfied the Council responded to your request in time and that procedures are in place to ensure that such an error does not occur again.

Regards.

David Taylor
Data Protection Officer
Borough Secretary's Department
The Guildhall
Northampton
NN1 1DE
 
Telephone: 01604 838536
Fax: 01604 837057
Email: [email address]
 
FOI disclosure web pages http://www.northampton.gov.uk/site/scrip...

 

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Dear Northampton Borough Council,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Northampton Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'S167 List of Accessible Taxis: update after 6 months - E previous no intent'.

1) You have not responded to the majority of my FOI request. You have assumed that I have asked for the same information as I requested in April. I did not; there are substantial elements of my FOI request that are for different information.

You therefore haven't responded to these elements of my request.

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

4) If you don't have a S167 list but do intend to produce one, please provide information in response to questions 4a) and 4b) below.
4a) Please indicate when you intend to have the list in place.
4b) Where you have already made relevant decisions, please indicate whether you intend to comply with the elements of the statutory guidance set out in 2b) to 2f) above.

5) 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."

5a) How many exemptions have you granted under S166 of the Equality Act 2010?

5b) 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?

5c) 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?

5d) Please provide a copy of your application form for driver exemption under S166.

5e) 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?

5f) How many appeals against refusal to issue S166 exemptions were successful?

6) 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?

2) You have misunderstood what a S167 list is.

A S167 list is a list of "designated" wheelchair accessible vehicles under S165(3)(a) / S167(1) of the Equality Act. Such a list would be created with the sole intention of implementing the legislation such that drivers of vehicles on that list commit a criminal offence if they refuse wheelchair users, charge them extra, fail to provide appropriate assistance or fail to transport them in reasonable safety and comfort. The statutory guidance, to which the local authority are legally required to have "due regard", states that in order for this to be a valid list and to have the effect of putting drivers under those criminal law duties, the list must be marked as "designated for the purposes of Section 165 of the Act", and other technical specifications. Such a list can only be valid from 6th April 2017 and would be produced with the sole purpose of implementing S167 and S165 of the Act thus putting drivers under those obligations.

Any list created for general information of the public is not a S167 list. The ability to filter the currently published register of licensed taxis would not form a S167 list. The argument that "as all vehicles currently accept wheelchair users there is no immediate need to identify those that do not" is specious: the point of the list is not to enable the public to differentiate between wheelchair accessible and non-accessible taxis, to avoid non-accessible taxis or to procure wheelchair accessible taxis. It is specifically and solely to put the drivers of those taxis under a criminal law obligation to accept wheelchair users, to not charge them more, to assist them and to transport them in relative comfort and safety. The information you have provided about your intent to make it possible to filter the taxi register by wheelchair accessibility, and the lack of a need to identify inaccessible taxis, is thus utterly irrelevant to my FOI request. I wish you would provide the information I actually requested and not the information you have or choose to provide.

For your information: unless you produce a S167 list your taxi drivers are not subject to the new criminal law obligation to accept wheelchair users etc. There is little point in this new legislation unless councils undertake the necessary bureaucratic work of creating a S167 list, because unless councils do so then their drivers are not subject to the new legislation. You are under the public sector equality duty to promote disability equality in all that you do. The fact that all your licenced taxis are wheelchair accessible is irrelevant to the need to create a S167 list in order to put drivers of those taxis under the new criminal law obligation not to discriminate against wheelchair users. That's why other bodies that have 100% accessible taxi fleets, notably Transport for London, have created S167 lists. Your failure to implement S167 is likely illegal and certainly lets disabled travelers down.

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

Requests, Northampton Borough Council

Please accept this response as acknowledgement that your request has been received by the Council. Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 the Council has 20 working days in which to respond to your request. Under the Data Protection Act 1998 the Council has 40 days in which to respond to your request.

If you require any further information regarding this request please see contact details below.

Information Governance, The Guildhall, Northampton, NN1 1DE. Tel 01604 838536/837409. Fax No 01604 837057

Please note that the contents of this e-mail, including any attachments thereto, may contain information which is confidential or privileged, and which is solely for the use of the recipient named above. The information contained in this e-mail, and in your reply, may be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or other legislation, and its confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. If you are not the intended recipient, please be aware that any disclosure, copying, distribution or use of the contents of this e-mail is strictly prohibited.

Northampton Borough Council, The Guildhall, Northampton, United Kingdom, NN1 1DE
+44 (0)300 330 7000
www.northampton.gov.uk

Stephanie Everitt, Northampton Borough Council

 

Good morning Mr Paulley

 

Following your email below received by Information Governance, Northampton
Borough Council has provided some further content and clarification to our
previous response to you,. in bold below:

 

 

 

Stephanie Everitt

Legal Assistant

Borough Secretary’s Department

Northampton Borough Council

Guildhall

Northampton

NN1 1DE 

01604 83 8841

 

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Dear Stephanie Everitt,

Thank you, but I requested an internal review.

Please respond as redquired under ‘Complaints and Appeals’ RMP 4.7.12 and 'Complaints and Appeals after Information Requests’ RMP-PD12.

Yours sincerely,

Doug Paulley

Requests, Northampton Borough Council

1 Attachment

Mr Paulley,

 

To date you have only asked the Council to review its response because you
believed it missed the new information requested. The Council has
revisited your request following your further correspondence and has
provided additional information in response. You were quite correct in
that we presumed it was just an update since your previous request and had
not appreciated much of the content was different. The Council’s response
has therefore been adjusted accordingly and a revised response issued. It
is this final response that can now be challenged.

 

Such a challenge will be valid if you can identify what information held
by the Council has not been released or has been exempt (though in this
request no information has been subject to an exemption). Formal
challenges should be made to [1][email address] and not
via the requests email address.

 

If however the Council’s response now leads you to a set of questions
about the way the Council has or is proposing to manage s167 then please
redirect your enquiry directly to the licensing department. It will be
highly unlikely that any such challenge to the process adopted by the
Council will relate to any further information held and therefore will not
be a valid FOI request.

 

Please note that enquiries to the Council that are not FOI will not be
responded to via the whatdotheyknow website.

 

Finally, if you now require new information not previously requested but
related to your request the Council reserves the right to treat this as a
supplemental request under the same request number.  The ICO has in a
number of decision notices, advised public bodies that managing
supplementary requests for information that prior to the first request an
applicant may not have known or thought to have asked is an acceptable way
to respond to further correspondence/requests.

 

The Council considers your original request closed and will only reopen it
if it receives a valid supplementary request or a valid challenge to the
FOI disclosure detailing what information it has not provided.

 

Regards.

 

David Taylor

Data Protection Officer

Borough Secretary's Department

The Guildhall

Northampton

NN1 1DE

 

Telephone: 01604 83 8536

Fax: 01604 83 7057

Email: [2][email address]

 

FOI disclosure web pages
[3]http://www.northampton.gov.uk/site/scrip...

[4]cid:image003.png@01D1206A.109A60B0

 

P

Please consider the environment before printing this email. 

If printing please recycleC Thank you......

 

 

 

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Dear Requests,

The statutory S45 Code of Practice says:

"77. Any written correspondence where the applicant says they are unhappy with a public authority’s response to an information request, or any communication which indicates that the authority is not meeting its obligations as set out within its publication scheme should be treated as a complaint.
78. A public authority should establish complaint handling procedures with set target times for resolution. These procedures should be publicised and covered in the public authority’s publication scheme."

I am unhappy with your response to my FOI request and you did not meet your obligations as set out within your publication scheme. Your response did not comply in the following respects.

1) You issued a final response that did not provide the information I requested. (Your suggestion that this was an interim response that "doesn't count" is specious: as far as you were concerned at the time that was the final response to my FOI request.) I therefore had to challenge you.

2) You did not supply the information "promptly", as required by the Act. You certainly didn't provide the information within the additional 20 working days.

I therefore require you to follow your FOI complaints procedure. Stop prevaricating or making mistakes, stop making up the rules, stop attempting to claim that because you eventually issued the information you don't have to follow your complaints procedure: that is not the case and you are resiling from your obligations. Follow the complaints procedure. Is that clear?

I want the complaint response to address three areas:

1) The failure of the Council's officers to read my FOI request properly

2) The failure of the Council's quality control procedures to identify that the response about to be issued to me did not provide the information

3) What actions the Council is taking to attempt to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

Your claims that challenges must be sent to a special email address, your claims that complaints can only be considered about the final response and not the process that was followed, your suggestion that challenges can only be accepted if they're about failure to provide information held, that I'm asking for additional information I didn't originally request or that I would attempt non-FOI related correspondence via WhatDoTheyKnow are inaccurate and specious. NB: I am an administrator of WhatDoTheyKnow, you are the only body I know of that attempts to refuse review requests sent to the FOI request address and it is evident I know your duties better than you.

You caused me inconvenience by your failure to comply with your legal obligation to respond to my FOI request. So investigate, find out what went wrong with your response to my FOI request and with your quality control procedures, tell me what you have done to prevent similar in the future and apologise, or I will trouble the ICO for a decision notice under sections 1 and 10 of the Act and an opinion on your failure to comply with best practice when responding to my complaint, as set out in the statutory S45 Code of Practice. Is that clear?

The Code also says:

"In cases where the authority has not followed the correct procedures, it is good practice to make a formal apology to the applicant and take remedial measures to ensure that this does not re-occur."

So where's my formal apology? I can't see it. Your response basically admits you failed to comply with your obligation, yet doesn't acknowledge the inconvenience caused nor apologise for it. And what remedial measures have you taken to ensure that this does not re-occur? Or do you not care about following good practice or the statutory guidance? Is this an indication of your lack of commitment to information governance, and of your contempt for requesters?

Stop finding "reasons" not to investigate my complaint and get on with it.

Yours sincerely,

Doug Paulley

Mail Delivery System,

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Requests, Northampton Borough Council

Please accept this response as acknowledgement that your request has been received by the Council. Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 the Council has 20 working days in which to respond to your request. Under the Data Protection Act 1998 the Council has 40 days in which to respond to your request.

If you require any further information regarding this request please see contact details below.

Information Governance, The Guildhall, Northampton, NN1 1DE. Tel 01604 838536/837409. Fax No 01604 837057

Please note that the contents of this e-mail, including any attachments thereto, may contain information which is confidential or privileged, and which is solely for the use of the recipient named above. The information contained in this e-mail, and in your reply, may be subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 or other legislation, and its confidentiality cannot be guaranteed. If you are not the intended recipient, please be aware that any disclosure, copying, distribution or use of the contents of this e-mail is strictly prohibited.

Northampton Borough Council, The Guildhall, Northampton, United Kingdom, NN1 1DE
+44 (0)300 330 7000
www.northampton.gov.uk

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