The Institute of Licensing (IoL) has written to the Government to raise concerns about failings in the taxi and private hire licensing system that is putting public safety at risk.
IoL President, James Button, said in the letter:
“We are aware that there is currently much discussion ongoing in relation to the licensing of taxi and private hire drivers, operators and vehicle owners, including the recently established working party by Minister of State John Hayes MP. We are conscious that any discussions must seriously consider the adequacies of current arrangements concerning criminality checks, data sharing and ability of licensing authorities and police practitioners to identify concerns relating to licensed individuals and those seeking to be licensed with a view to maintaining public safety and taking appropriate action as necessary.”
The letter addressed to the Home Office, DfT, National Police Chiefs Council and the chairman of the newly established Taxi and Private Hire Working Group, outlined the result of its member’s survey about the level of checks undertaken, data sharing with the police and other similar issues:
• Less than 25% of respondents consider the current data sharing arrangements are satisfactory
• More than 50% of respondents agreed that changes to the Notifiable Occupations Scheme affected information sharing between police and licensing authorities
• 72% of respondents said that do not receive immediate notifications from the police when a taxi licensee (driver, operator or proprietor) is under investigation, arrested or charged
• 42% of respondents said that the Data Protection Act used as a reason for not sharing information
• A substantial 80% of respondents agreed it would useful would it be to have a single point of contact within the police for taxi licensing issues
Mr Button continued: “The IoL has raised concerns previously with the Home Office in relation to data sharing between police and licensing authorities in relation to taxis. In March 2015, we put on record with the Home Office our concern over the then imminent changes to the Notifiable Occupations Scheme and the proposed removal of Home Office Circular 006/2006 which provided guidance to police forces about the disclosure of convictions and other information in relation to people in professions or occupations which carry additional trust or responsibility (notifiable occupations). In summary, the concern at that point was that the changes would increase uncertainty and inconsistency in data sharing.”
The IoL is currently leading on a project to develop a national model convictions policy for licensing authorities to consider adopting locally. It has been working with the Local Government Association and the National Association of Licensing and Enforcement Officers on the project and the aim is to consult on the draft document imminently. This project has been undertaken with the sole purpose of providing a potential national minimum standard endorsed by the relevant organisations with a view to raising consistency across England and Wales.