NEW guidelines have been approved spelling out when former offenders can become taxi drivers in Barrow.
A policy review for licensing hackney carriages and private cars has been completed and given the green light.
According to the policy’s wording, offenders convicted of murder, manslaughter, rape, and other serious crimes will have their application refused “unless there are exceptional circumstances”.
The Barrow Council’s Executive Committee said its policy on taxi licensing had to be updated following the child abuse scandal in Rotherham, and the role taxi drivers played.
Former offenders applying for licences will have to wait a period of time from when they were first convicted, or from their release if they were sent to prison.
People convicted of indecent exposure or soliciting would have to wait between five and 10 years before their application would be considered.
Arsonists, violent offenders and those convicted of racially aggravated crimes would also have to wait five years.
Committee chairman Councillor Dave Pidduck said: “As a council we have to make sure that all our policies are up to date.
“These are changes in that policy to reflect the modern situation.”
Councillor Brendan Sweeney and Cllr Pidduck both commented on the difficult task it was to draw a line in the sand for offences.
Cllr Sweeney said: “I think the licensing committee spend a lot of time looking at the individual cases. You have to draw the line between a mistake that someone made in the past or if there is no risk.
“Some one has to be able to make a living.”
Cllr Pidduck spoke of how taxi drivers should not be exempt from safeguarding regulations.
He said: “Safeguarding is so important now. They are in a position of trust.”
The new policy will also introduce changes to make sure taxi drivers are fit to drive.
New applicants will have to provide a medical certificate showing they are fit. Drivers over the age of 55 will be required to prove they are fit to drive every three years.
Drivers will also be required to complete a one-off knowledge test on the area, their understanding of the highway code and numeracy.
Some taxi drivers have supported the changes however there has been criticism these changes, and the charges they incur will push drivers out of the business.
In a public consultation, an anonymous taxi driver wrote: “I feel that I don’t see why we should have to pay to prove that I can do my job.”
Drivers will also have to require a DVSA driving assessment, however, this is no longer provided in Barrow – the nearest assessment centre is in Lancaster.
As a solution, Cllr Sweeney has called for an enterprising local business to start providing this service, he said: “There is a clear commercial opportunity for a local firm to take that up.”