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LGA calls for national taxi driver database to combat ‘outdated’ laws

The Local Government Association is backing a private members bill to introduce a national legal register of taxi drivers, it has announced.

The register will allow local authorities to know when a driver seeking a licence in their area has previously been banned or refused a licence elsewhere.

A few councils in England have already developed a voluntary database of licence refusals and revocations, and are backing the call for this to become mandatory.

Some of the current taxi laws date back to 1847, and the LGA says that the “current patchwork of outdated laws” means that councils’ powers are restricted when it comes to enforcing taxi licence requirements.

Currently, it is difficult for councils to who have banned or refused a driver to stop them from getting a licence elsewhere if the driver does not disclose their previous history.

It is hoped that this new bill, led by MP Daniel Zeichner, will make it easier for councils to share this information.

The Licensing of Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Safeguarding and Road Safety) Bill 2017-19 is scheduled for its second reading tomorrow, and will extend safeguarding measures to taxi drivers.

It will require authorities to record all refusals and revocations on a national register, which they will also be required to cross-reference new applications against.

The LGA has expressed concerns that a failure to update legislation fails to take account of the increase in app-based taxi services, such as Uber, which can result in costly legal challenges.

It argues that it has also “opened the floodgates” for drivers operating across licensing authority borders, with councils unable to take action against drivers operating in their area if they are licensed by a different authority.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board, said: “We’ve seen numerous cases where drivers have abused the trust of their passengers, with even children becoming victims of sexual exploitation cases.

“In some cases, drivers banned in one area have simply gone to the other part of the country and got a licence under false pretences, without being honest about their history.”

He explained that the bill will be an essential first step towards updating taxi licensing and improving safety, but that licensing must account for today’s challenges, not the ones faced decades ago.

“We would urge the government to go further than this bill, and deliver a licensing framework fit for the age in which we live,” Blackburn added.

“Councils have been making the case for our outdated patchwork of taxi laws to be updated with a taxi regime fit for the 21st Century, and it’s now time for government to deliver this.

“The current regime is not fit for purpose – some parts of the law pre-date the internal combustion engine, let alone apps and smartphones – and it’s long past time we had taxi licensing laws that reflect the everyday realities of this industry, and its vital role in our communities.”

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