Councillor pledges to reverse any changes to taxi licensing if Tories are voted into power in Derby

Councillor Mick Barker believes the council has improved its licensing of taxi drivers over the last few years and does not want to see the system change.

Any changes made to Derby’s taxi licensing system will be quickly reversed if the Tories are voted into power, a leading Conservative councillor says.

Oakwood councillor Mick Barker responded to claims by Labour’s Baggy Shanker that the licensing process must be changed to protect vulnerable people, including children, following the revelations of child abuse in taxis in Rotherham.

Mr Barker argued the council had tightened its procedures since the problems in Rotherham were brought to light in the Casey report last year.

Derby City Council is seeking public views on its taxi licensing regulations following the publication of a public interest report that exposed failings leading to licences in Derby being awarded to criminals who were not “fit and proper” to obtain a badge.

The authority says it aims to take licensing power away from councillors and put it in the hands of council officers, who would operate a points-based system when handing out licences.

But Mr Barker, a vice chair on the council’s Taxi Licensing Sub Committee and former Metropolitan Police officer, believes the council has made great strides to eradicate the problems highlighted in the report, published by auditors from Grant Thornton in June. He said: “It has been my passion to make our licensing one of the most robust systems in the country. We’ve been very robust over the last few years and have forced through a very strict licensing regime in Derby and I do not want to it reduced back down to a smaller number again.

“When we get voted back into power, we will convert it into what we believe is the right system and that is the system we have in place now.”

Currently, taxi licensing is operated as a committee system with 15 members. Meetings consist of five members making panel decisions on applications, suspensions, disqualifications and appeals.

A public consultation runs until Monday with two options. The first would see a similar system implemented but with panel meetings held and chaired by a council officer. The decision to approve an application would be made by the officer based on the principles set out in the sub-committee member guidelines.

The council’s preferred second option would see the Derby points system introduced and the committee scrapped, with no introduction of an officer panel. Any applicant with 12 points on their licence would be refused, with existing drivers having their licences revoked if they accrued that total.

Anyone convicted for a sexual offence such as rape, sexual assault or child sex offences, threats to kill or acts of terrorism carry an automatic refusal or disqualification.

However, assaulting a police officer, for example, would carry an automatic refusal if committed within the last four years but would earn six points if committed in the previous five years.

Mr Barker says he was still more concerned by the number of out-of-town taxis working in the city than the situation at the council, as the authority is powerless to stop and check drivers or their cars licensed by other authorities. This is because the law states any driver with a Hackney Carriage licence can operate as a private hire taxi anywhere in the country.

The Derby Telegraph revealed last month how almost half of the city’s cabbies were licensed by authorities outside of the city – some as far away as Rossendale in Lancashire.

Mr Barker said: “If you’ve got a dangerous vehicle on the road, it’s dangerous regardless of how good the driver is at the wheel. That puts people at risk and we cannot check those vehicles. That power lies with the police and officers from the council that gave them their licence.”

To have your say on the consultation, visit the Derby City Council website by clicking on this link.

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