Latest Public Sector News

14.12.16

Rotherham council regains control of taxi licensing powers

The DCLG has handed back licensing powers to Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council with immediate effect in a move welcomed by the local authority.

The communities secretary Sajid Javid wrote to the council’s chief executive yesterday (13 December) to confirm the decision, enabling the council to again make decisions on licensing matters – particularly concerning hackney carriage and taxi services.

This will allow the council to make licensing decisions independently for the first time since February of last year after a report revealed the council was “not fit for purpose” in the wake of the town’s child sex exploitation scandal.

However, the commissioners will continue to oversee licensing decisions until 31 March 2019 – ensuring a smooth transition of these powers to councillors in a way that ensures the continued safety of local residents.

The decision was made based on evidence from government-appointed commissioners, who found improvements made by the council. However, for the time being the commissioners will continue to retain powers in other areas including children’s services, adult social care and audit.

“Today I am exercising my powers under section 15 of the Local Government Act 1999 to return licensing; including all associated executive and non-executive functions, to the Council,” local government minister Marcus Jones said in a written statement to parliament yesterday.

“Handing back this function will allow some democratic control to be returned and is an important milestone for the council, which has demonstrated steady progress in its improvement journey.*

The decision was praised by commissioners and councillors alike, who said that the council had worked hard to regain its responsibilities for licensing.

Commissioner Mary Ney, who will continue to sit in an advisory capacity with council members for licensing decisions, welcomed the decision to return the council’s powers.

“Public safety and confidence is now at the heart of the council's licensing service and the new Hackney Carriage and Taxi Licensing Policy, the benefits of which we know passengers are already experiencing,” Ney said.

“Whilst we understand that the council is still on its improvement journey and we are focused on this and rebuilding trust and confidence in the way services are managed and delivered, this is another significant step forward in that journey.”

The council leader Cllr Chris Read called the announcement “welcome news”, saying that it was testament to the strength of the council’s work. “We’ve lots more to do but it’s a big step in the right direction, for the council and for Rotherham,” he said.

Cllr Sue Ellis, chair of Rotherham council’s licensing board, commented that the decision reflects the changes that the board has introduced to ensure services are now operating effectively.

“Rotherham’s taxi drivers and vehicles are now working to one of the most stringent policies in the country, and we continue to make good progress in regaining public trust by setting high standards to ensure the protection and safety of the public,” added Cllr Ellis.

(Image c. Lynne Cameron PA Wire)

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