Taxi drivers could be forced to take BTEC to ‘improve quality of service’

CHRISTCHURCH council could ask taxi drivers to complete BTEC and NVQ qualifications in a bid to ‘improve the level of service’.

A report to the licensing committee which meets today asks members to decide if they want to introduce new measures and go out to consultation with the taxi trade on the proposals.

They will also discuss whether to introduce a safeguarding module for drivers to complete.

It comes after Bournemouth council asked their drivers to complete BTEC and NVQ courses, which led to a concern that drivers were moving to Christchurch to work.

The report said: “It was also felt that such qualifications may improve the general level of service offered to the public by taxi drivers.”

Across the different council areas there are variances on the requirements for taxi drivers.

Bournemouth and Poole run safeguarding courses, Christchurch and East Dorset require English spoken tests for hackney carriage drivers and some authorities do knowledge tests on the area and aspects of the law.

The courses at Bournemouth are run by Bournemouth and Poole College and cost around £800 per driver.

Some of this is paid for via a government contribution, but this may not be available after 2017.

Previously, when the policies were reviewed, the idea of qualifications were “vehemently opposed” by the Taxi Liaison Forum, the report to members says.

And council officers have warned about the possibility of even stronger opposition in the light of the lack of government funding.

Councillors on the licensing committee will also be asked to look at a new safeguarding policy following the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse in Rotherham.

Officers have considered an e-learning course and seminars, but “have reservations” they could be too in depth and irrelevant.

“There is also concern that applicants would not complete the on-line course themselves, but instead enlist help from others.”

The practicality issue is also raised, with officers suggesting questions to be included as part of the council’s Knowledge test.

source: http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/

Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver Licence Conditions

Comparison of Dorset Policies – Appendix 1

Summary of BTEC and NVQ – Appendix 2 , item 4

Commons Questions

Department for Transport written question – answered on 12th September 2016.

Sarah Champion Shadow Minister (Home Office)
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, when he plans to lay guidance on licensing functions under taxi and private hire vehicle legislation before Parliament.
Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 
The Department is currently updating the existing guidance on local authority licensing functions for taxi and private hire vehicles. We will consult on a draft once the Policing and Crime Bill, which provides a new power for statutory guidance, has received Royal Assent.

‘My daughter has been let down and used as a political football’

The mum of a primary school girl whose alleged sex abuse started a taxi licensing investigation at South Ribble Council has spoken out for the first time.

The girl – who cannot be identified for legal reasons – was mentioned in an interim report into the scandal, leaked to the press in April.

The driver accused of abusing her was allowed to keep his private hire badge for 10 months while on bail. The case was not brought to court because of the girl’s age, but the driver has since had all of his taxi licences revoked.

A fact-finding mission after concerns were raised lead to the uncovering of a number of serious failings in the department, with two licensing officers being suspended. Now the monitoring officer who instigated the investigation has also been suspended.

The girl’s mum believes the case has been used as a “political football”.

She said: “Since the story broke it’s been repeated in the press. There’s talk about the council leader, leader of the opposition, Paul Foster, and all these councillors calling for others to resign.

My daughter’s case is being used as a bat and ball – all blaming each other whilst I’ve not even had an apology.

”She added: “I feel like I’ve been let down by every single agency. I’ve had nothing from the council. And everyone I’ve been dealing with has been suspended or has resigned.”

When the news of the secret report came to public attention, the mum said it brought back details of the case she had tried to move on from, and for which her daughter has had therapy.

The mum said: “I thought that when he had his badges revoked I had a little bit of closure. But when I went in newsagents it was all over the papers, when it was on ITV I had 15 texts in a minute, and I couldn’t have the radio on in the car because I didn’t want my daughter hearing it.”

She also claims she has been let down by councillors who promised she would be involved in a scrutiny review into the department problems.

She said: “The councillors all said I would be part of the scrutiny review and they would contact me, but I’ve never heard. I emailed in and had no reply. I feel like they’re trying to keep me out of it.”

Seema Kennedy, MP for South Ribble said: “I immediately wrote to the council to raise the matter and shared her concerns with the police. I am sorry she is disappointed that the process is going slowly but I have made representations on her behalf and await responses.”

Interim leader of the council, Coun Colin Clark, said: “The council takes any allegation relating to the conduct of a licensed taxi driver extremely seriously.

“That is why, as soon as concerns were raised about our Licensing Service, we acted swiftly and commissioned an external report by an independent firm of solicitors. We have implemented all of its recommendations and have checked and double-checked the licence of every single taxi driver licensed by South Ribble Borough Council.

“To ensure that no stone is left unturned, a special task group from our Scrutiny Committee is also undertaking a full review of how the council has handled the investigation. This will allow us to learn valuable lessons for the future. The findings of this thorough review will be made available to the public in full.”

Read more at: http://www.lep.co.uk/

 

South Ribble Borough Council ‘failure’ over taxi child sex claims

The report follows claims children were sexually exploited by taxi drivers in South Ribble

A review of how an investigation into taxi licensing was handled by a council in Lancashire has found “a major corporate governance failure”.

The draft report accuses South Ribble Borough Council of showing a “lack of regard” for safeguarding policies.

It follows claims children were sexually exploited by taxi drivers in the borough.

The report includes interviews with some councillors and officers involved in handling the complaints.

They include the council’s monitoring officer Ian Parker who described being “spooked” when various safeguarding problems were uncovered.

He admitted the council “let down” a vulnerable 16-year-old girl who was inappropriately spoken to by a taxi driver, and claimed he felt “out of his depth”.

The report details how the taxi driver told the girl he could legally have sex with her because it was her 16th birthday.

But councillor Warren Bennett, who was a cabinet member at the time, said nobody on the committee had thought the incident was a problem when the driver’s licence came up for renewal.

According to another interview on the same topic, the girl reported the problem to a school teacher who contacted Lancashire County Council, which then removed the culprit from its list of approved drivers.

South Ribble Council, however, were not informed of the move and the man continued to drive taxis in the borough.

The report also found members of the council broke its constitution on several occasions, and asked why the former leader Margaret Smith and Chief Executive Mike Nuttall – who have both since resigned – were excluded from the investigation.

Compiled by a group of councillors, it also asked why cabinet meetings were arranged behind closed doors, with no formal record of decisions being made.

The report will be discussed by the council’s scrutiny committee next week.

If accepted, the group will recommend action which could include referring staff members involved to the council’s standards committee.

source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/

Extra training for Burnley taxi drivers

Burnley Council is set to introduce training to raise child sexual exploitation (CSE) awareness among taxi drivers, in line with advice and guidance from national experts.

The council is recommended to incorporate CSE training as a requirement for all hackney carriage (black cab) and private hire drivers licensed in the borough.

The training is aimed at providing taxi drivers with the means to recognise vulnerability and act positively in engaging with other agencies, providing guidance as to how they should behave with all customers, not just young people, and how the council and taxi trade can work together using the drivers as our “eyes and ears” out there.

The CSE training has been developed throughout east Lancashire by licensing officers to ensure a consistent approach to training and has the support of the Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner.

If agreed, the new rules would mean all existing drivers who complete a council-approved awareness course before the end of this year could so without any cost to them. Any new driver or operator licence applicants would have to cover the £15 cost themselves.

The council has been in discussions with the taxi trade regarding introducing the awareness course.

The council’s principal licensing officer Peter Henderson said: “Everyone has a role to play in tackling child exploitation.

“Taxi drivers can find themselves in situations where they are with young people who could be in a vulnerable state or who could be in need of help. We want all our drivers and operators to be better informed about the issue of child exploitation and people trafficking and be able to act in a positive way if necessary.

“This is about supporting the wider work that the police and other agencies are doing to protect vulnerable young people. It’s about introducing ‘best practice’ and giving drivers and operators some basic knowledge and information so that, if a situation does arise, they know how to deal with it.

“We all have a role in tackling child sexual exploitation and the basic rule is ‘if there’s doubt, there is no doubt’. If a taxi driver is concerned about the safety of a young person in their cab this course will show that what they should do.”

The course will be delivered by safeguarding professionals at Burnley College who worked with specialist officers from Lancashire Police. Training is expected to take around two hours to complete.

The report to the licensing committee highlights the inquiry into the Rotherham child sex abuse scandal which found that “there is nowhere more important than in taxi licensing where sometimes vulnerable people are unaccompanied in a car with a stranger.”

Burnley’s approach is about acting in line with the best practice nationally.

It is part of the wider partnership working between the council and the taxi trade to make sure that everyone who uses taxis can be confident about the service they are receiving.

The training for drivers and operators has five core themes:

  • Basic CSE awareness, signs and symptoms
  • Recognition of their own responsibilities
  • Recognise how they should behave professionally
  • How they can report any concerns, suspicions they have
  • Understanding victims – breaking myths

    source: http://www.2br.co.uk/

17 Rotherham taxi licences approved by Lancashire council

A LANCASHIRE council which licenses taxi drivers from outside its borders has confirmed it has approved applications from 17 Rotherham drivers.

Rotherham commissioner Mary Ney has conceded that drivers are able to apply for licences in other boroughs to avoid Rotherham’s new strict regulations, including compulsory CCTV cameras in cabs.

Rossendale Council said it had not done anything wrong licensing cabbies from elsewhere.

Its policy currently required drivers applying for a licence to declare their intention to work “predominantly” in the Rossendale borough area, a spokesman said, stating that it was “unlikely” that drivers would be granted a licence if they live outside a 30-mile radius from the town centre.

Passengers and other drivers have noted Rossendale-licensed taxis operating in Rotherham.

And Ms Ney warned that drivers licensed elsewhere would avoid coming under Rotherham’s new rules meant to protect passengers and drivers, such as compulsory CCTV cameras in cabs.

The strict rules were imposed in the wake of the Rotherham child sexual abuse scandal, with the Jay Report saying cabbies played a “prominent” role in the abuse of hundreds of children.

The Rossendale spokesman said: “We are aware that there are Rossendale-licensed taxis operating in Rotherham.

“This is legal, and results from changes to national regulations which means taxi drivers have the right to apply for licences wherever they wish, subject to meeting the local application criteria.

“Once a vehicle has been licensed as a hackney carriage it is a hackney carriage for the duration of that licence, wherever it is currently located, and can therefore be used for pre-booked purposes in any district in England and Wales.

“It is not an offence for a licensed private hire operator to take bookings and then dispatch a hackney carriage licensed by a district which is different from that which licenses the operator.

“A hackney carriage can lawfully be used for pre-booked work outside its district.

“This is the result of national regulations, over which we have little or no influence.

“There are 17 currently licensed hackney carriages with the word Rotherham in the licence holder’s address.”

The spokesman said that Rossendale Council did not actively encourage taxi drivers to use its licences instead of Rotherham ones but drivers could choose where to apply for a licence.

He added: “For new applicants, we have an intended use policy, where applicants must declare their intention to work predominantly in the Rossendale area.

“We have also refined this down to a 30-mile radius and we’ve introduced basic skills tests for new applications.

“This is being phased in for renewals.

“Detailed assessment criteria for local areas are set by licensing committees.

“There is variation in these from area to area.

“We have not undertaken a direct comparison of Rossendale’s criteria with Rotherham.

“However, we do participate in local officer networks to help understand, review and share good practice.”

source: http://rotherhamadvertiser.co.uk/

South Ribble Council leader faces axe over taxi row

  • South Ribble Council’s leader is facing a vote of no-confidence revolt related to a taxi-licensing investigation
  • Rebel Conservatives say they have grown frustrated with the handling of allegations
  • A motion has been submitted to the chief executive to remove Coun Smith from her position
  • Coun Smith says she will not step down and insists she has done nothing wrong

The embattled leader of South Ribble Council is at the centre of a move to oust her.

Coun Paul Wharton, Tory member for Farington, has submitted a motion to remove Coun Margaret Smith from the position. He claims other rebel Conservatives have also signed the motion, after growing concerned at her handing of the taxi licensing scandal.

Coun Wharton said: “The council has been dragged through enough and I’m trying to protect the integrity that’s left. We have to take this news seriously, it’s not a blip like she keeps saying.”

He added: “I was elected to represent the residents of my ward and I will not sit back complacently and allow the leader to further damage the reputation of our council.”

A month ago a secret report into child sexual exploitation by two taxi drivers was leaked to the press. In it the council was criticised for failing to carry out proper background checks. Since then a new probe has been launched into how a cabbie who tied up a disabled boy had his licence renewed.

The council and its leader have been criticised for failing to make the report public.

“I was elected to represent the residents of my ward and I will not sit back complacently and allow the leader to further damage the reputation of our council.”

Coun Paul Wharton

But Coun Smith says that she has done nothing wrong and still enjoys the confidence of the people of South Ribble.

She said: “I have been a councillor for 33 years, I have been a cabinet member, group leader and mayor and the people that come up to me say that they think I am doing a good job. What Councillor Wharton is asking me to do is something I cannot do, as the report [into the taxi licensing issues] will go to the chair of the scrutiny committee, not to me.

“I have done my very best to make sure that we have conducted ourselves as best we can in the circumstances, but there are protocols that must be followed.

“We still have members of staff who are suspended and they deserve a fair hearing.”

The motion has been received by council chief executive Mike Nuttall, who must now decide when a vote will be held on the matter. If a majority vote against Coun Smith, she will be removed from her position with immediate effect.

Coun Wharton’s decision to enter the motion comes after he received a phone call telling him he was suspended from the local Conservative group.

After challenging Coun John Rainsbury – party chief whip – over a lack of formal notification, he said he then received an email saying the matter was being considered by Conservative Party HQ.

Coun Wharton said: “I’m disappointed and upset about it because I’ve worked very hard for my residents and the party. I believe it’s completely personal because I’ve put my head above the trenches.”

Coun Rainsbury said it was a private group issue and all he could say was that Coun Wharton was “fully aware of his position”.

Coun Wharton said the reason he was given for his suspension was that he voted against a cabinet appointment last Wednesday.

In the same meeting three rising stars of the cabinet – brought to inject some youthful energy – departed amid bitter recriminations over the taxi licensing issue.

Two, Michael Green and Caroline Moon, refused to continue – claiming their positions had become “untenable” due to false opposition claims of a cover-up.

The third, Warren Bennett, was removed by Coun Smith just 48 hours after leaving his job as her deputy.

Labour Coun Claire Hamilton supported the motion. She said: “After last Wednesday’s meeting of the council, I felt I had no alternative.

“The Leader simply doesn’t seem to have grasped the enormity of what has happened.”

source: http://www.lep.co.uk/

 

 

Nationwide drive for new taxi laws

A SURVIVORS’ group which helped tighten taxi rules in Rotherham after the child sex scandal wants stricter laws across the UK.

The Rotherham CSE Steering Group is writing to all councils in the country, urging them to take a similar stance with licensing.

New rules imposed by commissioner Mary Ney mean the majority of the borough’s cabs will need cameras and audio kit by July 6.

And “Katie”, a member of the steering group which advised RMBC, said: “We are now putting together a national plan to help prevent and reduce CSE.

“Part of our plan will be covering licensing policies, including taxis to make it safer for all passengers and drivers.

“We are contacting all councils throughout the UK to put our suggestions in place as we feel this can reduce all forms of crime.”

The steering group was consulted by Rotherham Borough Council on licensing changes explored after the Jay report highlighted the “prominent” role of taxis in CSE.

Now members — aiming to be heard by other authorities — have held meetings with Kirklees Council in Huddersfield, North Yorkshire County Council and spoken at a multi-agency event in Durham.

On Wednesday, they met Sheffield Council officials and group member “Jessica” said: “We’ve had some positive responses.

“I think they need to have stricter taxi licensing.

“Some drivers who are not happy about the cameras are moving to Sheffield or Barnsley for their plates but still operating in Rotherham.

“Why are people going to these lengths? The cameras are not going to be for child sexual exploitation, it could be an assault of a driver, anything.

“The main thing that we were fighting for with taxis is CCTV and audio. This is not just a problem for Rotherham, so it’s something we wanted to put in the national plan.”

RMBC’s new policy means all journeys must be video recorded, with audio activated when the passenger is a child or vulnerable adult. Drivers are unable to access footage.

The steering group has called for further measures to be introduced, including glass separating minicab drivers from passengers, a ban on under-16s in the front seat and enhanced DBS checks on drivers.

Jessica said: “People in our group like to put their ideas forward, but we’re all at different stages, so not everyone’s ready or feels strong enough to do meetings or conferences.

“At our art therapy group we have about 20 people but it’s a smaller core who are involved in the national plan.

“I’ve made friends in the steering group with people who I now speak to every single day.

“We want to tackle CSE from every angle, but that will take years to do.”

Rotherham drivers whose renewal date falls after July 6 have until they submit a new application to install the required equipment.

RMBC says this affects 150 of 780 vehicles.

The steering group can be contacted on RSG1400@mail.com.

source: http://rotherhamadvertiser.co.uk/

Senior South Ribble Conservatives quit party roles following taxi scandal

Two senior members of South Ribble Conservatives have quit their party roles a month after the taxi licensing scandal came to public attention.

At a closed-doors AGM on Monday night, the chief whip, Coun Michael Green and his deputy, Coun Paul Wharton – who were responsible for discipline of members – decided not to stand again for the roles.

Coun John Rainsbury, chairman of licensing, has been elected as chief whip, with Coun Mike Nelson as deputy.

Coun Green said he was unable to commment on the decision to step down from the role he has held for 11 years. Coun Wharton said his decision was due to “personal integrity”.

“I didn’t feel I could fulfill my role effectively under the current leadership.

“I wouldn’t have the support of Margaret Smith (leader) or the members. I’m not sure what is deemed acceptable or not anymore.”

A month ago a secret report into child sexual exploitation by two taxi drivers was leaked to the press. In it the council was criticised for failing to carry out proper background checks. Since then a new probe has been launched into how a cabbie who tied up a disabled boy had his licence renewed.

The council and its leader have been criticised for failing to make the report public. Now senior members of the Labour Party have called for Coun Smith to release the report or resign. They have been supported by Tory Coun Wharton.

He said: “Margaret needs to quickly make the report available to the council and to residents, and if she’s not willing to do that, then she needs to seriously consider her position

“This is a serious safeguarding issue, not a blip as she seems to think.”

Coun Smith retained the vote as leader at the AGM unchalleged. She declined to comment. But her deputy Coun Warren Bennett was voted out.

He said: “It is disappointing in terms of the outstanding issues that the council is currently facing. I have been part of the team pressing for an honest and transparent investigation into what has gone wrong at South Ribble.

“I only hope that those now tasked to complete the process do so in the truthful and open manner that has always been the intention.”

source: http://www.lep.co.uk

Jobless minicab driver jailed after grooming two schoolgirls on Facebook

A CYBER pervert who groomed two schoolgirls told police his online messaging was “harmless and just my sense of humour”.

David Robinson, 28, was yesterday (Wednesday, May 11) jailed for 16 months for inciting one of the youngsters to engage in sexual activity.

The jobless minicab driver, from Darlington who worked in Middlesbrough, also told detectives he thought the other girl – aged just 12 – looked 17.

There were gasps and tears in the public gallery at Teesside Crown Court where victims’ relatives were sitting.

Judge Peter Armstrong told Robinson: “You know full well that this sort of behaviour is not to be tolerated.

“It seems to me clearly you had an unhealthy and distorted way of thinking.

“You now accept that this was not something which can be treated as anything of a joke. This was serious as far as your victims were concerned.”

One of the girls said in an impact statement how her schooling suffered and she endures nightmares.

Robinson groomed both on Facebook, paying them compliments and making filthy suggestions, said Shaun Dodds, prosecuting.

He planned to meet them – although that never happened – and told a probation worker his intention was to have sex.

Defence barrister, Simon Perkins, said Robinson became bored after losing his job, which may have contributed to his offending.

“Given this is a computer crime, there is no suggestion of any associated child sex offences like indecent images to give the court grounds for thinking that this is an entrenched inappropriate interest in underage girls,” he added.

“There was no masquerading in this offending and there was no actual activity.”

The court heard how Robinson has one previous conviction for burglary when he was 16 – when he broke into a neighbouring family’s home after they went on holiday and stole a 14-year-old’s underwear.

In this case, he groomed the girls between 2013 and 2014 but was caught after a relative of one of them found massages on her iPod, and then pretended to be the youngster.

When Robinson asked what she was doing, she said she was going shopping with her aunt, said Mr Dodds.

The pervert replied: “Make sure you buy something sexy, some red lace underwear. You can get it from Anne Summers.”

Robinson, who admitted two charges of attempting to meet a child following sexual grooming and one of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, was also banned from working with under-16s.

Judge Armstrong told him: “Immediate imprisonment must be imposed to deter you and anyone else from thinking it is ok to speak to young girls in this appalling way over Facebook or any other social media.”

Robinson, who moved to Caerphilly, Glamorgan, after his arrest, was also banned from having unsupervised contact with girls under-16.

Source: http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/

Rotherham CSE Survivors Want Tougher Taxi Licensing

Heart Radio reports that victims of child sexual exploitation from Rotherham want councils across the country to use their experiences to prevent other young people being abused.

The Rotherham abuse steering group is built of survivors and family members created in the wake of the Rotherham abuse scandal.

They’ve put together a national plan to help prevent and reduce CSE.

Part of the plan covers licensing policies including taxi licensing to make it safer for all passengers and drivers.

It’s because, in some cases, drivers have been involved in CSE, with victims being trafficked across the country in taxis.

As a group, they have been advising and working along side Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council to put their licensing suggestions in place with effect from July 2016.

They are also contacting all councils throughout the UK to put their suggestions in place, because they claim it will help reduce all forms of crime, as well as CSE.

The full list of recommendations for taxi licensing is below:

 

  1. All taxis to be installed with CCTV and audio devices.
  2. All taxis to be installed with tracking devices
  3. All taxis to be installed with shield glass separating the driver from passengers
  4. All children to travel in the back seat
  5. Taxi drivers to use the vehicle for work purposes only and not for personal use
  6. All drivers to be enhanced DBS checked
  7. All drivers to report to base when not carrying a fare
  8. Cars should only be used by the registered driver.
  9. National data base to respond to intelligence as well as evidence against all taxi drivers
  10. Regular, random drug tests on all drivers
  11. Training in CSE awareness and reporting for all drivers
  12. Mandatory for owner of company to keep correct complaints procedure
  13. All job vacancies for staff to go through job centre

Read more at: Heart Radio