Oxford City Council fears over legal loophole with taxi licensing that could open door for child abuse

A LOOPHOLE allowing taxi drivers from other areas to work in Oxford could be closed as part of moves to protect young people.

Concern is growing about national rules that allow drivers licensed in one area to operate anywhere, regardless of differences in standards.

Officials say it allows hackney carriage drivers to avoid tougher standards in Oxford by getting credentials elsewhere and then working in the city for private hire firms.

Last year Oxford City Council estimated there were about 300 Hackney Carriages not licensed by it operating in the city, mainly on Friday and Saturday nights.

But now an influential committee of MPs has called on the Government to close the loophole.

Their comments come after a review of efforts to tackle child exploitation in Oxfordshire – carried out in the wake of the Bullfinch child sexual abuse investigation – warned the loophole made it harder to keep children safe because the authority that issues the licence is responsible for enforcement.

Colin Cook, vice-chairman of the city council’s licensing committee, said: “At the moment, it is in theory possible for someone to get a hackney carriage licence in the worst enforcement authority in the country, wherever that is, and still come and work in Oxford.

“We do what we can to make sure most are licensed here by us, but there is an increasing minority now coming from elsewhere and it can become more problematic when you are having to rely on them taking enforcement action.”

The Communities and Local Government Committee’s call was part of a review of the situation in Rotherham, which was at the centre of a child sexual abuse scandal, where measures to introduce CCTV were being “undermined” by neighbouring areas that do not require it.

The committee said: “We believe local authorities must be able to apply particular measures in relation to taxi licensing in their areas, such as requiring taxis to have CCTV installed, without those measures being undermined by taxis coming in from other areas.”

In Oxford, the city council has previously complained that higher standards in the city were being undermined by neighbouring authorities, including training in safeguarding. They have been working towards joint enforcement agreements but have yet to reach a deal.

But Mark Green, director of 001 Taxis in Oxford, said his firm needed to use drivers from “across Oxfordshire” because it operated over the whole county.

He added: “If councils wants to do more about these issues, they should raise standards together. We have an operator’s license for every area and have no problem taking people on across Oxfordshire.

“The fees outside Oxford are cheaper for drivers but they still have to do the same DBS (disclosure and barring service) checks, so it is not a safeguarding issue.”

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

Taxi ‘legal loophole’ could put children at risk in Rotherham

Ministers have been urged to ‘act without delay’ to prevent a ‘damaging’ legal loophole from putting young people in Rotherham at risk in taxis.

Since the child sexual exploitation scandal in Rotherham was revealed in 2014, all taxi drivers in the town now have strict rules to adhere to, including having CCTV installed in their vehicles.

But the Communities and Local Government Committee said it is concerned that taxis licensed by other local authorities may still operate in Rotherham, even if the drivers have had their application for a Rotherham licence rejected.

MPs said action is needed to address the ‘damaging’ legal loophole to prevent young and vulnerable people from being put at risk.

They have called for Government departments to prepare guidance in law over taxi licensing ‘without delay’, adding that new legislation should be considered.

Taxi drivers had a ‘prominent role’ in child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, according to the 2014 report by Professor Alexis Jay which suggested that 1,400 children had been abused over a 16-year period while those in authority turned a blind eye.

Children were often transported in taxis while they were moved around to be abused.

A report by Communities and Local Government Committee says: “We believe that local authorities must be able to apply particular measures in relation to taxi licensing in their areas, such as requiring taxis to have CCTV installed, without those measures being undermined by taxis coming in from other areas.

“We recommend that, in order to ensure that lessons are learned from experiences in Rotherham, the Department for

Communities and Local Government works with the Home Office and the Department for Transport on the preparation of statutory guidance under the Policing and Crime Bill in relation to taxi licensing.

“That guidance should be brought forward without delay. Once the guidance has been introduced, the Government should monitor the extent to which it ensures consistently high standards in taxi licensing across the country, and also enables local authorities to put in place and enforce specific measures which are appropriate for their local circumstances.

“If guidance is not able to achieve this, the Government should consider legislation.”

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

Angry Luton taxi drivers blame council

Luton taxi drivers are unhappy that Dunstable taxi drivers do not have to pass a Luton knowledge test before transferring their licence to Luton Borough Council

Luton taxi drivers are unhappy that their Dunstable counterparts are ‘invading’ their territory and not being required to sit the same tests.

A taxi driver from Luton, who does not wish to be named, is furious that some drivers from Dunstable are picking up jobs in Luton.

He said: “The drivers from Dunstable are invading our patch, they are registered with Central Bedfordshire Council but are asking to transfer their licences to Luton, and our council lets them.

“I had to go through a lengthy knowledge test for the Luton area, I had a CRB and other checks and I had to go through a council MoT which is very strict.

“Luton Council should make these drivers that come from other authorities sit the same tests, but they do not, they just let them transfer over, it is not fair.”

Luton Borough Council has raised concerns at a national level about cross-border hiring but it does not require drivers to complete a knowledge test if they have completed it with a neighbouring authority.

A spokesperson for the council said: “Luton Borough Council has been concerned for some time about the issue of cross-border hiring and licensing of private hire operators, drivers and vehicles, and we have raised this at a national level as we believe it is in the interests of public safety that service providers are required to comply with the conditions deemed appropriate in the area in which they are operating.

“We are also concerned about the increase in drivers and operators that have been licensed in neighbouring authorities to operate out of Luton bases, and so we are actively working with these licence holders to encourage them into the Luton Borough Council licensing regime.

“The conditions we attach to these licences are identical to those imposed on all Luton private hire drivers, and require that the licence holder has the necessary DSB (formerly CRB) check and that they have successfully completed a knowledge test.“

The main element of the test is to ensure an understanding of the Highway Code and road safety, and therefore successful completion of a knowledge test at a neighbouring authority has been deemed to satisfy the requirements for a licence to be issued by Luton Council in these circumstances.”

The Luton driver told the Herald and Post: “We have to know all the routes in Luton, all the schools, pubs, clubs and hotels, I had to study hard to pass that test. The Dunstable knowledge test will be different, so they should have to do the Luton one before they are given a licence. That is the only fair and right way to do it

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

‘This is our livelihood’ – unhappy taxi drivers block road outside council’s HQ

TAXI drivers in Rossendale blockaded council offices in response to controversial proposed changes.

Rossendale cabbies were unhappy with new rules being implemented and united to block the road leading to the offices of Rossendale Council at Futures Park from 7.30am yesterday.

Members of the Rossendale Taxi Association have said they are outraged at new rules drivers are being asked to adhere to and have said they have not been consulted.

Glenn Bulcock, 59, group member and former chairman, said: “This is only the start, we’ll block the whole of Rossendale if we’re forced to.

“This is our livelihood and our living.”

The newest council plans include implementing one-colour taxis, an age restriction of 18 months for new taxis, and causing all drivers to take a two and a half hour knowledge test costing £70.

Monday’s protest is the most recent in a dispute after Rossendale Council was accused of approving too many hackney carriage licences last October.

A total of 1,864 drivers had been issued with taxi licences and just two for private hire for a population of 65,000.

This led to drivers acting as mini cabs across the North West and into Yorkshire.

The latest protest was resolved around midday after council officers met with representatives of the areas taxi trade to hear their concerns.

It was agreed that a workshop meeting with Rossendale taxi representatives will be set up to discuss planned changes but the result was not welcomed.

Mr Bulcock said: “I’m not really happy with the outcome, the workshop will just give us another meeting where they will try and force their ideas on us.

“But the support from taxi drivers was absolutely fantastic, we had the whole of Rossendale behind us. More than 300 people turned up.

“We felt we had to demonstrate. They can’t continue to make changes without our input.”

The council was only made aware of the industrial action by the press and said it worked quickly to tackle the issue.

Chairman of the licensing committee Cllr Steve Hughes welcomed the result and was glad when the roads were cleared.

He said: “It is pleasing that this has been resolved quickly their voices will be heard.”

Rossendale Council urged that any future disputes are resolved formally as they look to avoid the disruption of industrial action.

Legal service manager Clair Birtwistle said: “The best way to engage with this process would be to provide a formal response. Those wishing to formally engage with the Council, as the Licensing Authority, can do so online.”

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

New 30 mile radius for hackney cabs slammed by taxi boss

The chair of the Rossendale Taxi Association says the group will formally object to the addition to the intended use policy

A Taxi boss has slammed the council for introducing a 30 mile catchment to stop Rossendale licenses being given to people who live more than 30 miles away.

Rossendale Borough Council say that since implementing their new hackney carriage intended use policy in February, they have ‘refined and clarified it’ in a bid to crack down on taxi drivers operating outside the borough.

This includes the rejection of applications whose address is beyond a 30 miles radius from a fixed point within the borough.

Rossendale are one of the first local authorities in the country to introduce such a measure after numerous complaints about taxis plying their trade out of the Valley in areas as far away as Bradford, Sheffield and Manchester.

However the chairman of the Rossendale Taxi Association David Lawrie, who worked with the council’s licensing committee to formulate the intended use policy, says the association are planning to lodge a formal objection to the amendment.

Mr Lawrie said: “This is something they have done without consulting with anybody, no notice, they just threw it in.

“This radius doesn’t make any sense whatsoever and if they have had [consulted] us about it we would have explained why. Things are going absolutely pear shaped.”

He added: “I would like them to go to the original intended use policy that they have only just adopted and give it a chance to work. This is nothing more than a waste of council time and money and stress for applicants who should not be being rejected.”

A report to the licensing committee states that the advice was communicated to applicants and the taxi trade online and face to face, however Mr Lawrie disputes that any contact has been made with his organisation.

Chairman of the licensing committee, councillor Steve Hughes, said the new radius did not need further consultation.

He said: “This is part of what was already agreed under the intended use policy, it’s not a change, it was a refinement of the policy and a clarification making it more specific but that wasn’t something that need to come back to a consultation.

“Ultimately the policy is there to ensure that people operate within Rossendale, if there is evidence that they are operating outside due process will be followed.”

source: http://www.rossendalefreepress.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/

Private hire operator loses licence for running taxi business outside district

A district council has revoked the licence of a private hire operator, as well as hackney carriage licences for five of his vehicles, after he was found to be running his taxi business outside of the district.

Ismail Emin, a Chelmsford resident, had been granted the licences by Uttlesford District Council for his business, West End Cars, in October 2015.

Emin listed the business address as a unit in Ongar Road, Great Dunmow, and he provided a letter from the landlord confirming he was a tenant at the address.

However, the council said it had received complaints that West End Cars vehicles were driving around Chelmsford with a Chelmsford telephone number on the side of their vehicles.

A member of Uttlesford’s enforcement team carried out two visits to the Dunmow address to check the record of bookings, but found no signage or any indication of the firm’s presence.

Neighbours also had no knowledge of a taxi business operating from that address.

At a meeting of Uttlesford’s Licensing and Environmental Health Committee last month (23 May), Emin failed to provide any supporting evidence that the business or the taxis were based in Uttlesford.

Cllr Robert Chambers, chairman of the Licensing and Environmental Health Committee, said: “The reason why someone from outside the area would seek a license in Uttlesford is quite clear – Uttlesford has one of the lowest fee structures in the country, and almost certainly in Essex.

“It is the policy of the council not to licence any hackney carriage which will not be predominantly used within Uttlesford. To reinforce this it is the practice of the Council to seek a declaration from the applicant that the vehicle will be predominantly used within the district. In this instance, Mr Emin’s declaration was false. There was no evidence to show that he has run his business within the district, or that any of the hackney carriage vehicles are working here.”

The council said its policy was based on a 2009 High Court case in which the judge said that, when considering applications for licences, councils must have regard to whether the vehicles will be used to ply for hire in the council’s district or whether they will be used predominantly outside of the district. In the latter event the council should refuse to grant a licence.

Cllr Chambers said: “I hope this case sends a strong message to those who fail to meet the licensing conditions that this will not be tolerated and that the council will not hesitate to take the appropriate action.”

source: http://localgovernmentlawyer.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/

London Luton confirms Addison Lee as its Personal Ground Transportation Provider

Addison Lee, one of the country’s leading passenger car companies is to begin operating from London Luton Airport.

The company currently operates in 350 cities around the world, carrying 10 million passengers in London alone. It will start operations from the airport’s taxi area from June 26th.

LLA’s passengers will benefit from fixed price fares, more ways to pay and free Wi-Fi in every vehicle.

Addison Lee will also offer a taxi-share scheme as well as a loyalty programme for regular travellers.

Other benefits include:
•Booking via web, app, or phone
•Payment via cash, card, Apple Pay, Paypal or on account
•GPS tracked vehicle with SMS updates
•Choice of vehicles including chauffeur and executive cars
•Specialist vehicles for disabled passengers

It marks another step in LLA’s on-going transformation which includes a £110m investment to redevelop the terminal and airport infrastructure.

source: http://newsroom.london-luton.co.uk/

House of Commons – Cross Border Hiring

28th April 2016

Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

Back in 1847 when Lord John Russell was Prime Minister, our taxi licensing laws were developed. We now have a problem in the north-west of England, where one local authority is handing out hackney carriage taxi licences like sweeties. The problem is that with a hackney licence a person can operate as a private hire vehicle driver anywhere in the country, so there are now taxis from that local authority operating as far afield as Bristol without appropriate checks and balances. May we have an urgent debate on how we can bring our taxi licensing regime up to date?

Chris Grayling Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons, Chair, Palace of Westminster (Joint Committee)

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I was not aware of the situation that he describes. I will make sure that it is drawn to the attention of the Secretary of State for Transport who I am sure, if he was also unaware of it, will want to look at the matter very seriously.