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6,000 ‘National’ Private Hire Licences Issued By Wolverhampton Council

Thousands of drivers licensed by the Black Country council will never work in the area

Reports Alex Ross from Wolverhampton’s Express & Star

The Express and Star article says

More than 6,000 people were issued with private hire licences by Wolverhampton council this year – up from less than 1,000 in the whole of 2014.

But many of the 6,395 drivers will not even visit the city as 5,319 live elsewhere, including one as far away as Southampton.

Wolverhampton taxi drivers say the local authority is too lenient on tests for new drivers and too many licences are being given out.

The Deregulation Act 2015 means drivers can operate anywhere in the country, no matter where they get their licence.

The council has also dropped an exam testing understanding of the local road map.

The newspaper’s report comes after a Freedom of Information request to compare 2014 figures, when 953 licences were issued. Out of those, 800 lived in the city and 153 were from outside.

It also follows a press release from the Local Government Association arguing against the current situation and needs reforming on safety grounds, saying:

The need for reform is now urgent. Councils are doing what they can to strengthen licensing processes, such as commissioning an LGA national register, but we have always said that the best way to strengthen safeguarding is to update legislation, which only government can do.”

Taxi laws need urgently updating to reflect new technology, help reduce the risk of child sexual exploitation and create a level playing field for drivers.

Wolverhampton is clearly operating against the collective policy of the Local Government Association.

The Express and Star report goes on…

Wolverhampton council charges £225 a year for a private hire licence. This compares to £306 in Dudley, £102 in Walsall excluding assessment and examination fee, £175 in Stafford and £153 in Sandwell.

Councillor Alan Bolshaw, chairman of the council’s licensing committee, said: “City of Wolverhampton Council is widely regarded as having one of the most efficient and streamlined private hire licensing application operations in the country.

“We have utilised new technology to provide an online platform enabling us to provide a much faster turnaround of licence applications than many other areas.”

Councillor Bolshaw said new drivers still had to complete a ‘comprehensive driver training programme’, which included an English language category.

He added: “Overall, our approach makes Wolverhampton council an attractive option to private hire operators and their drivers who have been free to choose where they apply for their licence since the Deregulation Act 2015.”

Taxi drivers in the city say too many licences are given out by the local authority, and have called for a limit on the number operating.
They say, despite many of the drivers working outside the area, there are too many who can operate in the city.

In October last year, taxi drivers in the city held a ‘go-slow’ protest. They complained the council was too lenient on tests for new drivers and too many licences were being given out.

Amrik Singh, a hackney taxi driver with 25 years’ experience in Wolverhampton, said: “We have been saying this for years now – there are too many drivers coming here from outside the city, its damaging our trade.

“But for the council it just means more more money. We need a limit to protect our trade.”

Back in March this year, Unite held its national taxi conference in neighbouring Coventry. Members from the local branch and Unite’s Regional Officer reported to conference: “That despite Uber not having a licence in Coventry, the city was being overrun by Uber vehicles operated from Wolverhampton”.

Only last week Cab Trade News reported that; Councillor Simon Letts, Labour leader of Southampton Council had written to John Hayes CBE MP, the government minister in charge of taxis and private hire at the Department of Transport, to complain about the number of non Southampton licensed private hire drivers and vehicles working in the city.

Unite Cab Section supports the  ‘licensed area’ policy outlined by Sadiq Khan in his Mayor of London Taxi and Private Hire Action PlanThat says, private hire journeys should either start or finish in the area that they are licensed for.

Labour’s Wes Streeting echoed the proposal in his All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), Lessons from London report on the future of taxi and private hire services in England and Wales.

Posted by Peter Rose @peterjrose1

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