‘The current taxi licensing system is unfit for purpose and requires an urgent re-think’ says Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, following today’s (12, February, 2019) government announcement to launch a consultation on rules to improve passenger safety.
Dame Vera has repeatedly expressed concerns over the granting of taxi licences and the application of licensing conditions, which vary from authority to authority. Currently this means that a driver who is refused a licence in one local authority may get one from a less strict council and apply for trade in the area which thought they were unfit to run a taxi in the first place. Whilst most taxi drivers are responsible and honest there has been taxi driver involvement in large scale sexual exploitation wherever it has been found. This ability to play one council off against another increases the risk of unsuitable people getting into a position of trust which they can abuse.
In recent years, alongside all six local councils, she has called on the government to introduce tighter controls, including the introduction of a national database and consistent national criteria for handing out licences.
In 2017, she championed the issue further in her role as Association of Police and Crime Commissioner (APCC) Chair, lobbying the government for new statutory guidance relating to how public authorities exercise their licensing functions on taxi and private vehicle hire legislation, in order to enhance protection for children and vulnerable adults.
Dame Vera, said: “The issue of taxi licenses has troubled me for some time. Clearly no-one with a sexual or indecency conviction should be getting behind the wheel of a taxi either – clear and simple. A system with the potential laxity that allows for anyone with such a history to slip through the net is unfit for purpose and requires an urgent re-think.
“I will be responding to the consultation in due course and hope it will ultimately deliver a safe, clear and up-to-date licensing structure for the future.”