Concern over loopholes in Hartlepool's taxi-licensing laws
Hartlepool licensing chiefs have been urged to look at outdated taxi laws to help keep convicted drivers off the roads.
Councillors hope to address loopholes which currently allow drivers convicted of crimes who have had their licences revoked to continue working by getting one from a neighbouring licensing authority or to drive larger minibuses instead.
Concerns were raised on the issue at the last meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council’s licensing committee.
Councillor Rob Cook, who represents De Bruce ward, quoted a recent article by the Local Government Association (LGA) which stated it will continue to campaign for more rigorous laws after an attempt to change the law in Parliament failed.
Despite the failure, a database of drivers who have been banned, refused or had a licence suspended is due to come into effect.
But a failed Private Members’ Bill would have boosted enforcement powers of local authorities.
Coun Cook said: “At the end of the day, when you get inside a taxi your life is in the hands of the person that’s driving.
“I think it’s important we do make it an item on the agenda for the new fiscal year.”
The LGA said a Freedom of Information Request revealed at least 865 taxi drivers nationwide successfully gained or renewed their licences over a five-year period, despite having convictions.
It described the current situation as a ‘patchwork’ of laws, some of which date back to Victorian times.
Hartlepool licensing manager Ian Harrison said the new database would be “a big step forward”.
He added: “Whilst it hasn’t happened in the Tees Valley area, I do know it happened north of here, where you can have one authority who have revoked somebody’s licence and they have gone to the neighbouring authority and got a licence, only for that driver to then go and work in the authority who had taken his licence off him.”
Mr Harrison added that concern about laws around minibuses is being raised by Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham.
The DVLA is responsible for allowing drivers to drive vehicles if they have nine seats or more, but the vetting process is said to be “vastly different” to that of local authorities for drivers of anything with up to eight seats.
Mr Harrison said: “There are numerous examples where a [taxi] driver has had their licence revoked or refused by the local council, sometimes for very serious matters, and then that driver is able to simply get another category added to their DVLA licence, which allows them to drive a passenger-carrying minibus.
“It’s a nonsense that that should be the case.”