There are plans for all taxi and and minicab drivers to go through stricter criminal record checks.
It’s part of Government plans to boost passenger safety.
Ministers say while the vast majority act responsibly – there have been too many cases where drivers have used their job to prey on others.
Trevor Hines is the Managing Director at Station Taxis in Sunderland.
The Department for Transport is reviewing licensing guidelines for councils, so the changes can be rolled out nationwide.
Trevor Hines says he’d welcome a nationwide data base to make the industry brought up to standards.
Responding to the new guidance on taxi and minicab licensing published by the Department for Transport, Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:
“Councils have long-called for existing outdated taxi laws to be updated and strengthened so we are very pleased that so many of our recommendations have been supported in this consultation.”
“Proposals to improve safeguarding, establish national minimum standards and create national enforcement powers are essential to provide safer journeys for passengers and fairer business for drivers. The need for legislative reform to taxi laws which date back to the 19th century is now urgent.”
“Councils have been doing what they can to strengthen licensing processes, such as signing up to the voluntary LGA-commissioned National Register of Revocations and Refusals. We are delighted that government recognises the value in mandating our initiatives and we look forward to working with government to develop them, including the issue of cross-border restrictions.”
“However, given significant funding pressures on councils, government needs to ensure that licensing authorities can recover the costs of proportionate compliance and enforcement activity linked to these recommendations and other work, from driver and operator fees.”
Trevor tells us Station Taxis is using technology as a means to help protect both the passenger and the drivers.
The consultation on taxi licensing to protect passengers has also been welcomed by Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird.
‘The current taxi licensing system is unfit for purpose and requires an urgent re-think’
Dame Vera has repeatedly expressed concerns over the granting of taxi licences and the application of licensing conditions, which vary from authority to authority. Currently this means that a driver who is refused a licence in one local authority may get one from a less strict council and apply for trade in the area which thought they were unfit to run a taxi in the first place.
Whilst most taxi drivers are responsible and honest there has been taxi driver involvement in large scale sexual exploitation wherever it has been found. This ability to play one council off against another increases the risk of unsuitable people getting into a position of trust which they can abuse.
In recent years, alongside all six local councils, she has called on the government to introduce tighter controls, including the introduction of a national database and consistent national criteria for handing out licences.
In 2017, she championed the issue further in her role as Association of Police and Crime Commissioner (APCC) Chair, lobbying the government for new statutory guidance relating to how public authorities exercise their licensing functions on taxi and private vehicle hire legislation, in order to enhance protection for children and vulnerable adults.
Dame Vera, continued:
“The issue of taxi licenses has troubled me for some time. Clearly no-one with a sexual or indecency conviction should be getting behind the wheel of a taxi either – clear and simple.
“A system with the potential laxity that allows for anyone with such a history to slip through the net is unfit for purpose and requires an urgent re-think.
“I will be responding to the consultation in due course and hope it will ultimately deliver a safe, clear and up-to-date licensing structure for the future.”