CCTV, a grasp of English and regular criminal record checks are among a host of new rules proposed for taxi and private hire drivers in Birmingham.
A number of ideas put forward would also tackle the city’s problem of being ‘flooded’ by drivers licensed from other areas , of whom the council has no jurisdiction over.
A list of more than 30 recommendations has been published by a Government task and finish group set up by the Department for Transport last year.
It has called for an urgent review into the relevant legislation, some which is more than 100 years old and was written before the car was invented.
Even the newer laws were enshrined before the arrival of the internet and mobile phone, both of which have shaped the taxi industry in recent years via the likes of hailing apps such as Uber .
What is being proposed?
Some of the key recommendations are:
- All licensed vehicles must be fitted with CCTV with audio and visual capability.
- All drivers must be able to speak and write in English.
- Drivers must be subjected to Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks every six months.
- Taxis and private hire vehicles can only operate in the area they are licensed, however they are free to obtain multiple licences.
- Council officers should have powers to carry out checks on any driver regardless of where they have been licensed and pursue enforcement action for any breaches.
Further suggestions include establishing a national database of drivers, allowing councils to cap the number of licences they hand out, mandatory child sexual exploitation training for every driver and an updated list of convictions which can serve as grounds for refusing or revoking a licence.
Licensing for Hackney Carriages outside of London is stipulated by the Town Police Clauses Act 1847, while private hire rules are determined by the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
The Law Commission reviewed the legislation in 2011 but their subsequent proposals were not adopted.
The task and finish group described this as ‘regrettable’.
Their report stated: “Had the Government acted sooner the concerns that led to the formation of this group may have been avoided.”
It added that the rise of smartphone booking applications – like Uber – had ‘thrown the need for an urgent update on legislation into sharp focus’.
What do Birmingham chiefs say?
Birmingham City Council ‘s acting head of licensing Emma Rohomon said: “The legislation is outdated and is in serious need of updating or replacing.
“The situation at the moment is detrimental to public safety as well as to the trade itself, with many legal loopholes being widely exploited, leaving licensing authorities powerless to respond.”
Mrs Rohomon also offered initial responses to each of the recommendations.
Whilst she agreed with many of the ideas, or pointed out that some were already in place in Birmingham, the licensing chief sought clarity around which councils would take enforcement action against out-of-area drivers and warned of the increased costs of carrying out extra checks in areas ‘flooded’ by outside operators.
She also said there would be a ‘significant increase’ in administration time for the council to implement six-monthly DBS checks, which is a steep rise from the three-yearly checks currently operated.
The recommendations will be discussed by the council’s Licensing and Public Protection committee on Wednesday (October 24).
Chairman Coun Barbara Dring is expected to write to the Government afterwards urging a ‘swift response’ to the proposals.
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