26 Apr Zoom welcomes new guidelines for taxi and private hire licensing
Zoom.taxi has welcomed new guidelines for taxi and private hire drivers which campaigners hope will undo the damage caused by the 2015 deregulation of the industry.
The new guide provides a national benchmark for granting licenses after the huge disparity between regions has been criticised by Zoom.taxi and campaigning groups such as the Suzy Lamplugh Trust.
The guide, published today by the Institute of Licensing, is intended to help authorities who grant licenses decide whether they should grant a driver or a company a license.
Over recent years, both taxis and private hire drivers have been implicated in child sexual exploitation, most notably in Rotherham and again recently in Telford.
The exploitation uncovered in Rotherham and other areas has highlighted the ‘potentially catastrophic consequences’ of inadequate vetting of licence holders. The guidance aims to provide a level of consistency and stop applicants from ‘shopping’ between authorities.
Last year we revealed the huge rise in licenses being granted in Wolverhampton where the process is much less stringent than in other areas.
The guidance, which can be used alongside a council’s own local policy, considers how the history of the applicant or licence holder is relevant to their ‘suitability’. This includes previous convictions and any other information discovered by the licensing authority.
Councillors in Bolton have recently taken the decision to look at the historic records of drivers and revoke licenses if they find anything they feel is relevant.
The document entitled ‘Guidance on determining the suitability of applicants and licensees in the hackney and private hire trades’ considers how regard should be had to the antecedent history of the applicant or licence holder and its relevance to their ‘fitness and propriety’ or ‘suitability’ – this would include previous convictions but may also include other information coming to light for the licensing authority to consider.
Fareed Baloch, Chief Operating Officer of Zoom.taxi, welcomed the announcement but said “We must remember that guidance does not mean new laws and this will not provide the answers the industry and the public need and deserve.”
“I hope that local authorities use this as a basis for their process in awarding licenses but I fear that there will be those who do not bother: the granting of licenses can be an easy way of making money for councils who are seeing ever increasing demands on their resources and the most cost effective way of doing that is via an online application form with very few tests.
“However I still believe that we need national minimum standards to be imposed by the government to undo the problems created by the deregulation in 2015.”
President of the IoL, James Button, said: ‘These guidelines are the result of over two years work by the working party, which recognised there was a clear need for up-to-date guidance to assist local authorities in determining whether a person was safe and suitable to hold a hackney carriage or private hire licence.
‘They will enable local authorities to promote high standards, for the benefit of their communities and visitors, and will also assist in the creation of a more consistent approach across England and Wales. I would urge local authorities to adopt them.’
The guide has been produced in partnership with the Local Government Association (LGA), National Association of Licensing and Enforcement Officers (NALEO) and Lawyers in Local Government (LLG).