Councils leave passengers ‘vulnerable’ as taxi drivers go unchecked

Major Labour councils were accused of leaving passengers “vulnerable” to unsafe taxi drivers by failing to carry out checks on a national safety database. The register was set up to stop cabbies and private hire drivers who are stripped of their licences for committing crimes from working in another area.

Details released in Parliament show four big local authorities failed to search on it once and another only consulted it on one occasion.

A Conservative source said: “To make all journeys in taxis and private hire safe, ministers have been pressing councils to make proper use of the national database – sharing information on drivers across the country.

“Sadly, five of the largest councils, all Labour-led, clearly aren’t. It’s time for Labour to put the interests of passengers first and start checking and inputting information onto the national database to protect taxi passengers, rather than leaving them vulnerable.”

Transport Minister Richard Holden released records in the Commons showing Birmingham City Council, which has 6,280 registered drivers, made just one search of the register last year.

Manchester, Newcastle and Liverpool city councils along with Sefton all failed to use it at all.

The register was set up following concerns that drivers who had committed road traffic offences or other more serious crimes could be stripped of their taxi or private hire licence in one local authority area but continue to work by simply setting up in another area.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The safety of passengers using taxi and private hire vehicles is vital, which is why since 2020 Ministers have consistently urged licensing authorities to make use of the database – writing to them again on the topic as recently as this week. We will continue to keep any further potential measures under review.”

A Birmingham City Council spokesman said it follows a “comprehensive vetting process” for all driver licence applications for Hackney Carriage and Private Hire vehicles and is “moving to a model” where the vetting will include using the national database.

“Public safety is our priority and we are confident that our vetting process ensures that we have taken appropriate steps to safeguard all passengers and ensure drivers are “fit and proper,” the spokesman added.

Newcastle City Council said it will start using the national register after a new policy was put in place.

“The safety of passengers is of the utmost importance and all drivers are subject to stringent licensing authority vetting processes, and their records are proactively consulted upon and shared with Northumbria Police,” a spokesman said.

Manchester City Council said it has “one of, if not the most stringent licensing regimes for taxis and private hire vehicles in the country”.

A spokesman said it had only been given technical details of the database Wednesday and “only now can we integrate our own processes within this system, which we will do immediately”.

Liverpool City Council said its procedures for licensing drivers are “extremely robust” and involve a “rigorous six-stages process”, which has been benchmarked for best practice against other major cities in the UK.

“The Council also has a sharing agreement already in place with our neighbouring authorities in the Liverpool City Region and our respective licensing departments all share details of those drivers who have been revoked or refused a licence,” a spokesman said.

A Sefton Council spokesman said: “The Licensing Authority has appropriate checks in place, including DBS checks, to ensure that passengers are not placed at risk when using a Sefton licensed taxi or private hire vehicle.”

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