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23.06.14

Relaxing minicab licensing laws could be ‘devastating’ – LGA

Plans to allow licensed drivers to let other people use their vehicle when they are off-duty – without any checks being carried out – could be ‘devastating’, the Local Government Association (LGA) has warned.

Relaxing minicab licensing under the Deregulation Bill, which is at the Report Stage in Parliament, could pose a greater risk to public safety, according to the LGA.

The association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, stated that loosening the law means that dangerous minicab drivers could more easily challenge reviews of their licences following traffic offences. This is because they could more easily claim another driver was responsible.

Under the current system, minicab drivers undergo various council vetting process including criminal records and medical history checks before they are granted their licence. Cllr Tony Page, LGA licensing spokesman, said: “Anyone using one should be able to do so safe in the knowledge that its driver has had their background fully checked and meets certain safety standards.

“Councils fought hard for the reinstatement of enhanced criminal records checks for taxi and private hire drivers and these irresponsible plans threaten to undermine that progress and remove this vital protection for passengers.

“The consequences for someone entering a vehicle marked for hire where the driver has not been properly licensed and vetted by the council can be devastating – we should not increase the chances of that happening.”

However, a spokesman for the Department of Transport said that the Deregulation Bill will not put taxi passengers at risk and drivers will continue to have their backgrounds routinely checked.

“Councils will have strong tools to assess drivers’ and operators’ suitability and to carry out enforcement activity,” he said. “The Disclosure and Barring Service will allow licensing authorities to discover any new convictions during the lifetime of a driver’s licence.”

A cross-party group of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), led by Greater Manchester PCC Tony Lloyd, have joined forces to lobby Ken Clarke to get the measures removed from the Deregulation Bill, supporting the LGA’s call to action.

They want him to introduce a dedicated Taxi Bill, such as a Bill already drafted by the Law Commission, so that reforms can be brought in in a considered way.

The PCCs who have so far joined the campaign include:

Tony Lloyd, Greater Manchester (Labour)

Vera Baird, Northumbria (Labour)

Sir Graham Bright, Cambridgeshire (Conservative)

Kevin Hurley, Surrey (Independent)

Alan Charles, Derbyshire (Labour)

Martyn Underhill, Dorset (Independent)

Martin Surl, Gloucestershire (Independent)

Richard Rhodes, Cumbria (Conservative)

Jane Kennedy, Merseyside (Labour)

Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire (Labour)

Ron Hogg, Durham (Labour)

Sue Mountstevens, Avon and Somerset (Independent)

Jane Kennedy, Merseyside (Labour)

Anthony Stansfield, Thames Valley (Conservative)

Winston Roddick, North Wales (Independent)

Stephen Bett, Norfolk (Independent)

Barry Coppinger, Cleveland (Labour)

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@publicsectorexecutive.com

Comments

B Adams   23/06/2014 at 16:38

The issue here is that under these proposals people will be able to drive a licensed taxi who are not licensed taxi drivers and that inevitably opens doors for all sorts of ill intentioned people to put the public at increased risk of harm. In other words if my dad had a taxi and was a licensed driver I could drive it without a taxi drivers licence and providing I was insured little could be done. I think it is a risky move.

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