LGA calls for radical reform of taxi licensing

29 Aug 17

The Local Government Association has called for radical reform of taxi licensing legislation, most of which is 170 years old and dates from an era of horse-drawn traffic.

It is supporting a private member’s bill introduced by Labour MP Daniel Zeichner, which would modernise parts of a process that mostly dates from the Town Police Clauses Act 1847.

Licensing authorities have struggled to keep up with the rise of app-based cab services such as Uber, a proliferation of minicabs and the increasing tendency for cabs to operate outside the area in which they were originally licensed.

This has left councils unable to take enforcement action where a taxi is licensed by one council but then operates in the area of another where licensing conditions are more demanding.

The LGA said: “This is causing huge frustration to councils and local drivers who, depending on what the local rules are, may have had to comply with more rigorous licensing standards.”

It said a government working group due to be convened this autumn should look at national minimum licensing standards for drivers of taxis and minicabs, a national database of licensed drivers, and the ‘cross border’ hiring problem.

The LGA is building a national register of revoked or refused taxi and minicab licences so councils can check new applicants against it.

Clive Woodbridge, deputy chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board, said: “The legislation governing aspects of taxis and private hire vehicles pre-dates the motor car and is simply not fit for purpose in an era when mobile phone technology is significantly changing the way people access private hire vehicles.

“In recent years, we’ve seen a number of child sexual exploitation cases that have involved taxi and [minicab] licence holders abusing the trust that has been placed in them, so there are strong safeguarding reasons for strengthening current legislation.”

Councils were being forced to spend money on costly legal challenges where taxis faced competition from vehicles hired through phone apps because the legislative situation was unclear, Woodbridge added.

He said: “Local licensing authorities are trying to work out how new models fit within a legislative framework drafted before mobile phones were even invented, when what is really needed is clarity on a new legislative framework that allows for a 21st century way of doing things fairly for passengers, councils and drivers.”

Zeichner’s Licensing of Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Safeguarding and Road Safety) Bill calls for the prevention of hiring taxis from one council area in another.

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