The Shropshire Star reports that tougher rules on who can become taxi drivers in Telford are set to be introduced under council efforts to protect the public.
Telford & Wrekin Council, which has been outspoken on the rules relating to taxi licensing, is recommending a raft of changes to its policies that set out who can be granted a licence.
Under the plans, which will go out to public consultation, there will be significantly longer rehabilitation periods for convicted criminals before they can be granted a licence – with those convicted of violence seeing the rehabilitation period going up from five years to ten years from the point their sentence was completed.
Earlier this year a Telford taxi driver was jailed for sexually assaulting a female passenger.
It emerged that the driver had not been licensed by Telford & Wrekin Council, and had instead secured his permit in another council area.
The case reignited concerns about the licensing of drivers, and whether the system was protecting the public.
In recent weeks it has also been confirmed that the council is in discussions with large taxi firm, Go Carz, over the installation of CCTV in the company’s private hire vehicles.
Raja Ahmed, the driver convicted in July, was working for Go Carz when he committed the offence.
Telford & Wrekin Council has also called on the government to toughen up regulations so that drivers can only work in the area they obtain their licence.
However, the new plans will see the authority toughen up its own licensing.
While some offences have a rehabilitation period before people become eligible to apply, a number of crimes mean people will never be allowed a licence, including those that result in death, involve exploitation, or sex and indecency offences.
Those convicted of supplying drugs will not be able to apply for ten years after the end of their sentence, while sentences involving possession of a weapon, dishonesty, or discrimination, will all have a rehabilitation period of seven years.
Drink and drug driving offences will also have rehabilitation periods of seven years, while people convicted of using a mobile phone while driving will have to wait five years before they are eligible.
Under the plans the new policy would come into force from January 1 next year.
Councillor Richard Overton, Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet member for enforcement said the measures would toughen up the rules on drivers, but also said he still wants to see decisive action from the government.
He said: “We know our standards for licensing taxi and private hire drivers are higher than those of other local authorities. We now want to further drive up those high standards.
“We want to consult on changes to our licensing policy which include adding offences such as violence, supplying drugs or using a handheld device at the wheel and increasing, in some cases doubling or more, the time that must pass for a convicted driver, before they can apply for a taxi or private hire licence from us.
“We know that drivers who have been refused a licence by Telford & Wrekin Council can apply to another council, then come back and work here. That is why we have been asking the Government to change the law so that only drivers who are licensed by us by meeting our higher standards can operate in our borough.
“We are also in discussions with the taxi firm Go Carz on the installation of CCTV cameras in their private hire vehicles, something we hope other operators will also do.
“It is vital that we ensure the safety of the public we serve.”