Thursday 7 March 2024

Transport Secretary should end taxi sub-contracting loophole

John Healey has written to the Transport Secretary calling on him to end the taxi sub-contracting loophole enabling drivers to avoid Rotherham’s high standards.

There’s an increasing problem of taxi companies being able to sub-contract fares and bookings to an out of Rotherham company which then uses drivers and vehicles licenced by a different authority to the one where the original company is based.

Rotherham Council implemented significant improvements to local policy from 2015 for Hackney Carriage and Private Hire licensing. The changes brought about much higher standards and expectations for taxi drivers and vehicles in the borough.

The new standards included requirements for applicants such as: completing a BTEC Level 2 certificate; completion of an approved course on safeguarding children and vulnerable people; completing an advanced driving skills test to DVSA standard; and the need for the vehicle to have a taxi camera system installed.

In his letter to the Minister John says: “I understand the Government introduced this concept of sub-contracting after making amendments to private hire legislation through the Deregulation Act 2015. This change has now made it lawful for a Private Hire operator to accept a booking and then sub-contract it to another operator that is licensed by a different local authority.

“I’m very concerned this loophole is allowing drivers and vehicles to circumvent our high requirements in Rotherham and obtain a licence from an area where the standards are lower. This would then allow such individuals to work in our borough even though they may have previously had their licence refused or revoked by Rotherham.

“This is clearly highlighted in the example of Wolverhampton City Council where I understand they currently licence just under a staggering 40,000 taxi drivers, compared to just around 1,200 licensed by Rotherham. This is even more stark when you consider the populations of Wolverhampton and Rotherham are very similar as shown in the Census 2021 data, with Wolverhampton at just below a population of 264,000 compared to just below 266,000 in our borough. I’m also informed that our taxi driver levels have remained relatively constant in our borough but levels in Wolverhampton have increased significantly since 2015.”

 John previously wrote to the Department for Transport in 2014 about the need for tighter checks on both taxis and drivers, and the need for national standards.

In his letter John explained: “My concern then was the same as now, that taxi passengers are better protected and the taxi trade is properly licensed. Ten years on, there has been no Government action on national safeguards or standards.

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