South Tyneside council bosses want taxi licence loophole closed

South Tyneside Council wants tighter controls on taxi licences
South Tyneside Council wants tighter controls on taxi licences
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Council bosses in South Tyneside are to call on the Government to close a loophole which allows people who are banned from driving taxis to drive minibuses instead.

The council’s licensing committee say they were “disturbed” by the difference in regulations between the licensing of taxi drivers and drivers of nine-to-16 seater vehicles known as Public Carriage Vehicles (PCVs).

Licensing manager Jeff Young said taxi drivers are licensed by the council and need to undergo a criminal record check every three years.

But PCV drivers are licensed by the DVLA for whom the “standard of checks are significantly lower” with no criminal record checks.

Mr Young said the difference meant drivers deemed “not fit and proper” to drive taxis could be driving the minibuses instead.

He said one example from South Tyneside involved a man who, after twice being refused a taxi licence, drove his car through a barrier to confront the council officers who opposed him.

He is now driving a 16-seat mini bus for a local taxi company, Mr Young said.

The officer said the man is one of two cases which are causing the council concern but there could be others the authority does not know about.

Coun Anne Hetherington said: “We should raise the profile significantly of this. The safety of our residents is paramount.”

Mr Young said the Department of Transport believes criminal record checks are not required for minibus drivers as they carry a number of passengers at a time so the “risk is reduced to an acceptable level”.

But Coun Doreen Purvis said minibuses used by taxi companies were used to pick up single passengers when other vehicles weren’t available.

The committee agreed to write to the secretary of state for transport to raise their concerns “in the strongest possible terms”, write to local taxi operators and ask the full council to consider a motion on the matter.