“Stringent” new taxi licensing policy approved
A new “stringent” taxi licensing policy will see South Cambridgeshire District Council become one of only a few authorities requiring the installation of CCTV in most vehicles.
The newly-approved policy also includes compulsory wheelchair accessibility in hackney carriages and the introduction of a knowledge test for new drivers.
The policy was put together after a full consultation, which saw comments from residents, drivers, operators and parish councils helping to shape the new rules. Full Council yesterday (Thursday 22 February) voted to approve and adopt it from 1 April.
By April 2020, CCTV must be installed in all hackney carriages, which can be flagged down, and most private hire vehicles, which need to be pre-booked. Councillors heard how between June and December last year there were around 30 taxi-related complaints reported to licensing officers, ranging from dangerous driving through to inappropriate behaviour, where CCTV may have helped establish exactly what happened. It is hoped that having video footage available will give further confidence to both drivers and passengers.
All hackney carriages will have to be fully wheelchair-accessible, to help ensure that disabled residents can hire a cab on the spot with the minimum of delay or fuss. This will mean that all hackneys will need features including ramps and grab rails at doors. Disability awareness training will also become mandatory for all drivers.
A knowledge test will now become compulsory for all new drivers, with only those passing it granted a licence. This is to ensure they have a good understanding of the area, places of interest, English and arithmetic. Additionally, drivers that have a complaint upheld against them, particularly relating to these key areas, will have to undertake and pass the test to show they remain fit and proper to continue to hold a licence. Furthermore, all drivers will now have to provide the Council with a satisfactory medical report during licence applications and renewals.
The new guidelines also state that people convicted of the most serious offences, including sexual or indecent assault, will be refused a licence outright. Applicants will continue to have to provide an enhanced DBS check to reveal any previous criminal convictions, but a new arrangement will also see the Council working with the Disclosure and Barring Service to be alerted if any crimes are committed during the licence period. Safeguarding training will also become compulsory for drivers, better enabling them to spot any concerns relating to their passengers’ wellbeing, and know how to report them.
Cllr Mark Howell, Cabinet Member for Environmental Services, said: “Several months ago we set out to create one of the most stringent taxi licensing policies in the country. I’m confident we’ve now done that. It’ll set an even higher bar that drivers and operators must pass before they’re granted the privilege of a licence. It also gives further piece of mind for all parties via mandatory CCTV, and raises the level of service offered to wheelchair users. Essentially, this new policy should give more confidence to both the travelling public and the trade as it will further raise standards. We have very clearly set out new, higher expectations of conduct. Taxis are very important in a rural area like South Cambridgeshire and relied upon by many people, so I’m pleased we’ve been able to raise the bar.”
The Council currently licenses around 1,000 drivers and 900 vehicles that work through 140 licensed operators.