Northumberland has signed up to a national register which allows authorities to check if taxi drivers have been refused licences elsewhere.
Licensing authorities are required to satisfy themselves that those holding hackney carriage and Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) driver licences are ‘fit and proper’.
But while there is guidance as to what this means, there are no legal rules as to how to determine a ‘fit and proper person’.
A report to Northumberland County Council’s licensing and regulatory committee explained that ‘there is widespread consensus on the need to increase consistency and set national minimum standards for the fit and proper test at a suitably high level’.
However, as an interim measure, the council has agreed to start using the National Register of Refusals and Revocations, which was commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA).
Currently, the report explains, if drivers do not disclose information about a previous revocation or refusal of a licence, there is often no way for another licensing authority to find this information out.
The new register will allow authorities to record details of where a licence has been refused or revoked and also to check new applicants against the register.
David Sayer, the council’s business compliance and public safety unit manager, said: “We will put people on it and we will check it. It will take longer for the licensing process, but it’s very worthwhile.”
At the same meeting, councillors also received an update on the recent Government report on taxi licensing, following fears that the current regulatory regime for the sector ‘is no longer fit for purpose’.
The report, Steps towards a safer and more robust system, by a task and finish group set up in response to high-profile incidents including the abuse scandals in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford, contains 34 recommendations.
In his report, the group’s chairman, Professor Mohammed Abdel-Haq, said: “I look forward to the Government’s prompt response to this report in order to maintain the momentum for improvement. Undue delay would risk public safety.”
Mr Sayer told members: “We are now waiting to see which recommendations will be carried forward into legislation.”
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service