Local authorities have welcomed recommendations to introduce national minimum standards for taxi and private hire vehicle licensing.
A report published yesterday by the Task and Finish Group on Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing urged the Government to overhaul the regulatory regime for the taxi and PHV sector.
Authored by the task group’s chair Professor Mohammed Abdel-Haq, the report recommended the introduction of national minimum standards for drivers, vehicles and operators for taxi and PHV licensing.
The Government must convene a panel of regulators, passenger safety groups and operator representatives to determine what these minimum safety standards should be, the report says.
However, it also added that licensing authorities should be able to set additional higher standards in safety and all other aspects depending on the requirements of the local areas.
Campaigners have been warning for some time of the dangers of a lax regulatory regime when it comes to taxi licensing.
A report from the campaign group Suzy Lamplugh Trust warned in January that passengers are at risk because the highest level of criminal checks is not required in law - it is only recommended in guidelines.
The Trust’s research into safety checks for taxi and PHV drivers revealed only 46 out of 316 local authorities were able to provide the Trust with detailed information about drivers’ criminal histories on request.
It also discovered that at least 865 drivers in the 38 licensing authorities approached for information had successfully applied for or renewed their licence despite having a criminal conviction.
John Hayes, the former minister of state at the Department of Transport who commissioned the task group report, described the licensing regulatory system as ‘not fit for purpose’.
Responding to the report’s publication, 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the Local Government Association’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: ‘Councils have long-called for existing outdated taxi laws to be updated and strengthened so we are pleased that many of our recommendations have been supported in this report.
‘Proposals to tackle out of area working, improve safeguarding and establish national minimum standards are essential to provide safer journeys and fairer business for drivers.’
‘Further recommendations to set minimum numbers of wheelchair accessible vehicles and install CCTV in licensed vehicles, while desirable, need to be considered alongside necessary funding to facilitate this,’ Cllr Blackburn added.
He also welcomed the fact that the report recognised the importance of retaining a certain amount of local flexibility when it comes to licensing.