The government has issued its statutory taxi and private hire guidance to local authorities. 

In the statutory guidance, the Government said that “The Department therefore expects these recommendations to be implemented unless there is a compelling local reason not to.” 

What this means for the trade – a brief overview

Read the statutory guidance here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/902238/statutory-taxi-and-private-hire-vehicle-standards-english-21-7-2020.pdf

Licensing policies 

The statutory guidance will compel licensing authorities to have “cohesive policy documents”. In areas where there are existing and comprehensive licensing policies, the DfT has made it clear that it expects these to be reviewed in light of the statutory guidance and for licensing authorities to implement changes. Therefore either way, the licensed trade should expect policy changes in light of the forthcoming statutory guidance. As a minimum, the department has stated that policies should include comprehensive sections on convictions, a ‘fit and proper’ person test, licence conditions and vehicle standards.

Fit and proper test 

The department has formalised an approach by defining fit and proper in the statutory guidance: 

Without any prejudice, and based on the information before you, would you allow a person for whom you care, regardless of their condition, to travel alone in a vehicle driven by this person at any time of day or night? 

Disclosure and Barring Service Barred list – The biggest changes the licensed trade can expect are to criminal records and other background checks. 

At present, all taxi and private hire drivers and applicants for a drivers licence are subject to an enhanced disclosure and barring service (BDS) check. However, not every taxi and private hire driver and applicant for a drivers licence is checked against the barred list. The statutory guidance will make this a mandatory requirement for individuals applying for or renewing taxi and private hire driver licences. 

Criminal record checks for PHV operators and staff 

PH Operators should also expect more rigorous checks. The statutory guidance has recommended basic disclosure checks for licensed operators as a minimum standard (including overseas convictions checks). Additionally, the statutory guidance has suggested that licensing authorities should request that, as a condition of granting an operator licence, a register of all staff that will take bookings or dispatch vehicles is kept and the operator should be required to evidence that they have had sight of a Basic DBS check on all individuals listed. 

Mandatory training 

The trade should expect the imposition of mandatory safeguarding and equality awareness training. The government has been consistently indicating the importance of safeguarding and equality awareness training for the licensed trade. There is no indication from the government that it will set the training requirements/content and so mandatory training courses will be developed locally. 

Mandatory CCTV 

The statutory guidance has upheld the merits of CCTV in licensed vehicles but stopped short of making CCTV mandatory. Having said that, there is no doubt that more licensing authorities will seek to impose CCTV requirements on licence holders. 

Cross border enforcement 

Licensees should expect to see more collaborative approaches to enforcement powers. At the moment licensing authorities cannot formally enforce against drivers and drivers not licensed by them. I expect more formal agreements to be adopted that will sub-delegate enforcement to other council for example in places where cross-border hiring is a particular problem.

Stephen McCaffrey

Regulatory defence barrister specialising in taxi and private hire licensing law, appeals and defence.

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