A safer ticket to ride

The new government needs to legislate on taxi licensing to help ensure safer journeys for customers and fairness for drivers

This year is set to be another significant one across a number of different areas of licensing as the new government moves forward with its commitments.

One key area that councils will be watching with interest the steps ministers will take to update outdated taxi licensing laws.

Early last year, government accepted the need for new legislation to reform key aspects of the licensing framework, following recommendations from a cross-sector working group of which the LGA was a part. 

“In the absence of new legislation, councils have been doing what they can to raise standards and improve safeguarding

Ministers committed to introducing national minimum standards for taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) licensing, new national enforcement powers for councils, and a national licensing database – all things that the LGA has been lobbying for over a number of years. There was also a commitment to look at how to resolve cross-border issues in more detail with a view to legislation. 

Councils welcomed this move and the LGA has urged government to bring forward new legislation as soon as possible, especially given recent figures that showed the number of licensed vehicles and drivers has reached a record high.

Reforms are needed to reflect the increasing use of mobile phone apps to book taxis and PHVs, 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.

Bringing forward changes to the law is a real opportunity to make significant progress in creating a system that not only provides safer journeys for the public but also fairer business for drivers.

In the absence of new legislation, councils have been doing what they can to raise standards and improve safeguarding. The LGA’s annual licensing conference, on 5 February, will be an opportunity to hear about some of these initiatives and the work going on at the local and regional level.

Approaches from Greater Manchester and St. Helens Council will be shared at the conference and are outlined right.

The LGA has also been working to support councils around information sharing, and last year launched the National Register of Revocations and Refusals (NR3).

The register allows licensing authorities to record details of where a hackney carriage or PHV drivers’ licence has been refused or revoked, and check new applicants against it.

This should help prevent people found not fit and proper to hold a licence in one area from securing another somewhere else through deception and non-disclosure.

Ultimately, the LGA wants to see outdated legislation overhauled as soon as possible.

Local alignment

The 10 local authorities in Greater Manchester have taken steps to align licensing standards at a regional level.

The common minimum standards will cover driver standards, vehicles standards, operator standards and local authority standards, as well as supporting the region’s requirements to tackle air pollution across the region.

Councils are due to consult on the new standards later this year. St. Helens Council has developed a two-pronged approach to improving passenger safety and maintaining the high standards it has set locally.

This includes the development of a compulsory safeguarding course for drivers and a new public awareness campaign, #KnowYourRide, highlighting the benefits of taking a St. Helens’ taxi.

The LGA’s annual licensing conference takes place in London on 5 February. For more information and to book your place, please visit www.local.gov.uk/events

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