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Taxi regulation plans "could put public safety at risk"

Councillors are lobbying the government over proposed changes to taxi licensing regulations which they fear could put the safety of members of the public at risk.

Wolverhampton City Council has written to Oliver Letwin MP, Minister for Government Policy and the Sponsoring Minister for the Deregulation Bill - Private Hire Vehicles Sub Contracting, highlighting concerns about the prospect of drivers and vehicles from other parts of the country completing journeys booked through Wolverhampton based operators.

The council's licensing team say the proposed changes would make it impossible to ensure drivers or their vehicles meet required standards.

Councillor John Reynolds, Wolverhampton City Council's Cabinet Member for City Services, said: "The council has serious reservations about the prospect of taxi journeys booked through local operators being completed by drivers and vehicles licensed in another area.

"We will have no enforcement powers regarding the conduct and behaviour of these drivers when they complete such jobs - and if passengers have a complaint there will be confusion about who they could complain to and what action, if any, could be taken by either of the licensing authorities involved.

"The existing licensing framework gives councils control over the standard of drivers and their vehicles. For example, we require all our drivers to complete a safeguarding awareness course and know their way around the city, so for example they know how to get to the hospital if their passenger falls ill.

"The proposals will effectively negate all localised licensing requirements for private hire drivers and vehicles and act as a disincentive to licensing authorities to maintain high standards.

"Additionally in the absence of any electronic national database it will be almost impossible to validate the authenticity of vehicle licences from other areas and while this could be achieved retrospectively, in some cases it may be too late."

He said the Local Government Association has expressed similar concerns, and added: "While we accept that the existing licensing framework requires reform, we have grave concerns regarding public safety and our ability to effectively enforce the private hire licensing regime should the sub contracting of private hire fares clause in the Bill be agreed."

He called on the Government to carry out a more comprehensive review of the licensing framework, keeping public safety at the forefront.

  • released: Thursday 15 January, 2015