Taxi rules to change 'in order to protect users' - The Solihull Observer

Taxi rules to change 'in order to protect users'

Solihull Editorial 4th Dec, 2019   0

CABBIES in Solihull could be made to follow new rules under a council review of taxi licensing.

Councillors on the licensing committee are set to start a consultation on tightening up legislation for taxi drivers in the borough.

Meeting on December 10, the committee will look at a new policy to “determine the suitability of applicants and licensees… in order to protect users.”

The policy could change drivers’ eligibility for renewing licences, for both black cabs and private hire vehicles.

The review comes as the council aims to keep up with advice issued by the Local Government Association (LGA), the membership body for councils.

The LGA is calling on the government to strengthen taxis legislation – some of which they say dates back to 1847 and horse-drawn hackney carriages – to improve passenger safety following the proliferation of app-based private hire vehicle companies.

Latest national figures from the LGA show the number of licensed taxi and private hire vehicles in England increased to 291,800 in 2019, an increase of 58 per cent on the 184,500 licensed vehicles in 2005 when comparable records were first collected.

Attributing the nationwide increase to ‘a surge in licensed private hire vehicles,” the body said there was an 83 per cent increase to 221,200 in 2019, from the 120,400 private hire vehicles in 2005.

The number of people licensed to drive taxis and private hires also increased substantially over the same period, rising by 50 per cent, from 242,000 people to 362,000.

Councils are struggling to take enforcement action against ‘out-of-area’ drivers as there is no standard set of licensing standards.

Solihull Council’s last taxi licensing review took place in 2010, when the Department for Transport published best practice guidelines, but the LGA warned that over the last decade legislation has become quickly outdated.

An updated licensing policy would make standards more stringent for granting taxi licenses.

In proposals to the government, the LGA also called for a mandatory national database of all licensed taxi drivers.

Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Updating outdated and flawed taxi licensing laws has never been more urgent to provide safer journeys for the public and fairer business for drivers.

“The Government must stick to the commitment that was made earlier this year to reform taxi legislation.

“Reforms are needed to reflect the increasing use of mobile phone apps to book taxis and private hire vehicles and to give councils national enforcement powers so they can take action against any vehicles operating in their areas irrespective of where they are licensed.

“Safeguarding legislation needs to be strengthened following well-documented child exploitation cases where taxi and PHV drivers have abused the trust placed in them. “

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