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Taxi laws need updating to protect children

Following a number of Child Sexual Exploitation cases, the LGA is urging the government to reform taxi laws

Published on 28th August 2017

Taxi laws need reforming to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation, local authorities have warned.

The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, is urging the government to update taxi laws to strengthen safeguarding measures.

Cllr Clive Woodbridge, Deputy Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Councils have long argued that there is a need for the existing outdated taxi laws to be updated. 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.”

The LGA says taxi and private hire legislation – some of which dates back to 1847 and horse-drawn hackney carriages – needs strengthening to improve passenger safety in light of the proliferation of app-based taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) companies and increased cross-border hiring.

Councils cannot take enforcement action against the rising numbers of taxi drivers licensed by other authorities operating in their area.

The LGA has recently commissioned the development of a national register of taxi and PHV licences which have been refused or revoked so councils can check new applicants against the database and update with their own information. However it says taxi laws need reforming to ensure children are protected.

The government has set up a working group to look at the issue over the autumn. The LGA is calling for the group to look at:

  • The issue of national minimum licensing standards for drivers of taxis and PHVs,
  • A national database of all licensed taxi and PHV drivers, and
  • Cross border hiring.

Cllr Clive Woodbridge said that in recent years, there have been a number of child sexual exploitation cases that have involved taxi and PHV holders abusing the trust that has been placed in them, and therefore there are strong safeguarding reasons for strengthening current legislation.

“The onset of mobile phone booking apps for PHVs is causing concern about whether drivers are able to compete on a level playing field and has led to numerous and costly legal challenges which local licensing authorities are being forced to spend public money on.

“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.

“The need for reform is now urgent. Councils are doing what they can to strengthen licensing processes, such as commissioning an LGA national register, but we have always said that the best way to strengthen safeguarding is to update legislation, which only government can do.

“It’s encouraging that the government has recognised the need to look at this issue as a matter of urgency, following Minister John Hayes’ announcement of a working group to look at this over autumn and report back to him. The LGA looks forward to being part of the working group and is urging government to follow it up by supporting or bringing forward new taxi licensing legislation which benefits passengers, councils and drivers as it is brought before Parliament,” he concluded.

 

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