Council leaders have welcomed the Government’s decision to scrap plans to relax taxi licensing rules.
It comes after the Local Government Association (LGA) warned the proposals, included within the Deregulation Bill, would put children at greater risk of sexual exploitation. Had the plans gone ahead, people other than the minicab licence holder would have been able to drive the vehicle when they are off-duty.
This would play into the hands of criminal gangs, argued the LGA, by making it easier for them to use taxis to groom, abuse and traffic children.
‘Councils – alongside children’s charities, personal safety organisations and taxi drivers themselves – have long-warned that this unwanted change would increase the public safety risk to people using minicabs,’ said Cllr Ann Lucas, chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board.
‘When people get into a taxi, they put their trust in the fact that the person driving the car has been vetted and licensed and that it is safe to be in a vehicle with them, especially if they are travelling alone. Anyone getting into a minicab should be assured that the only person allowed to drive the car has had their background checked, and it is right that Government has now agreed to let councils maintain this protection.’
Cllr Lucas called on the Government to remove two other clauses that would increase the length of driver licences and enable minicab firms to sub-contract bookings to other companies without telling the customer.
‘Our own opinion polling shows 80% of women would be concerned if they booked a journey with one firm and a different one turned up,’ she said.