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Public being put in 'danger' by current taxi licence legislation

Birmingham Mail logo Birmingham Mail 11/07/2018 Carl Jackson

Council bosses in Birmingham want to establish a 'common set of standards' for issuing taxi licences across the West Midlands - which would also apply to rebel local authority Wolverhampton.

The public are being put in 'danger' by current legislation which allows private hire operators to obtain a licence in one area and work in another, warned Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council (BCC).

Council officers have no enforcement powers over drivers who have been licensed elsewhere.

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a close up of a sign: Newcastle under Lyme Magistrates’ Court has found in favour of Lichfield District Council after a taxi driver appealed the council’s decision not to renew his taxi driver’s licence. © Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Newcastle under Lyme Magistrates’ Court has found in favour of Lichfield District Council after a taxi driver appealed the council’s decision not to renew his taxi driver’s licence.

Cllr Ward revealed he had held a meeting between Labour council leaders in the West Midlands with a view to establishing consistency across the region for issuing licences.

It is understood the talks have also included bosses at Wolverhampton Council which has been widely criticised, by Birmingham taxi drivers in particular, for its licensing process.

It is quicker and cheaper to obtain a licence at the Black Country authority while there is dispute as to whether their examination is easier and less demanding.

Councillors and officials at Birmingham have not publicly pointed the finger at Wolverhampton.

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But tellingly the authority was omitted when Cllr Barbara Dring, chairman of licensing and public protection (BCC), wrote to the Minister for Transport about the issue in October on behalf of Birmingham, Coventry, Sandwell, Dudley and Walsall councils.

The problem has arisen due to the 2015 Deregulation Act which allows licensed private hire drivers to operate anywhere in England and Wales.

Cllr Ward said: "The current situation of taxi licensing whereby taxi drivers can be licensed by one authority and work in another local authority is resulting in a mess, and a mess that is putting the public at danger and at risk.

"The government, in spite of being written to on a number of occasions by Cllr Dring, is proving to be reluctant in the extreme to make changes to the current licensing regime.

"Therefore I held a meeting with the Labour met leaders two weeks ago, to discuss the whole situation about how taxis are licensed across the West Midlands.

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"What we have agreed is that we will now have a subsequent meeting where we will attempt to agree a common set of standards that should apply across the West Midlands.

"It is to the credit of all the leaders across the West Midlands that we are prepared to act when the government is not prepared to act."

Cllr Dring said: "The law states that licensing authorities must not grant a licence to any person unless they are satisfied that person is fit and proper.

"It is not appropriate to comment on the standards applied by other local authorities but we take this very seriously in Birmingham."

Cllr Dring also pointed out recent changes to improve the efficiency of Birmingham's licensing process, which included axing the A-Z map test, making questions multiple choice and testing numerous candidates at one time.

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She added: "Private hire vehicles have always been allowed to pick up and drop off outside their licensed area.

"But the Deregulation Act 2015 has caused a problem by allowing the sub-contracting of bookings between areas which leads to such great numbers.

"Our officers have no enforcement powers to carry out checks on vehicles other than our own and neighbouring authority officers do not have enforcement powers in our area."

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