Nurseries win victory over vehicle licence rules

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Nurseries in Barrow-in-Furness have won their fight against council plans to make them take out private hire licences for vehicles they use for pick-ups and drops off.

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Cheeky Monkeys Childcare had to stop using its vehicle for trips

In May, Nursery World reported that Barrow Borough Council in Cumbria was requiring private nurseries in the area to take our private hire licences for vehicles with eight or fewer seats to transport children. Staff were also required to hold private hire drivers licences.

The move would have cost the two nurseries affected, Happy Kids Day Nursery and Cheeky Monkeys Childcare, thousands of pounds a year.

However, the council has now made a u-turn, saying that childcare businesses do not fall into the private hire licensing regime.

It follows months of campaigning by the nurseries and Colin Rudd, a parent whose son attends Cheeky Monkeys Childcare.

A letter sent to the nurseries from Jen Curtis, senior licensing officer at the council, states, ‘Following further legal advice and investigations, it has been decided that the businesses you are representing, do not fall into the private hire licensing regime. Therefore they are not required to be licensed as private hire operators, the vehicles they operate do not need to be licensed private hire vehicles and the drivers do not need a private hire drivers licence.

‘The Department of Transport guidance sets out key principles and characteristics, which the department considers to define a private hire vehicle. Although clear exemptions are made for childminders, businesses such as private nurseries fall into a grey area. The guidance offers a view on whether the services failing within this grey area should require licences and is designed to assist licensing authorities’ considerations where the decision is not clear-cut.

It adds, ‘The Licensing Authority is satisfied that the carrying of passengers is an ancillary part of the main service provided by the nurseries, the drivers of the vehicles have been vetted for wider works and have specific qualifications or training which go beyond driving and general customer care. This is on the basis that only qualified nursery staff drive the vehicles whilst transporting children to/from the setting, should this change in the future and the nurseries outsource the service or drivers they must notify Barrow Borough Council immediately.'

The letter also says that any fees the nurseries have already paid to the council will be refunded.

Kerry Griffin, owner of Cheeky Monkeys Childcare said that while they were delighted about the council’s u-turn, the nursery has lost business because they stopped using their vehicle.

Matthew Pilkington, Happy Tots Day Nursery’s business manager, said, ‘We are over the moon at this decision given the time and costs that have been involved.

 ‘Thanks to this outcome, we can spend the money we would have had to use for PHV licensing on facilities and equipment for the children in our care.’

Claire Schofield, director of membership, policy and communications at National Day Nurseries Association, said, ‘NDNA has long campaigned for its members to be treated fairly and sensibly by local authorities with regards to fees and licences.

‘Nurseries are mostly run as small businesses which can find it hard to balance the books and even small charges can make a difference.

‘We are pleased that Barrow Borough Council has looked into this issue after it was flagged up by Nursery World and will adopt a common sense approach towards nurseries driving children in private vehicles which includes paying back those who have bought licences and no longer need them.’

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