Debates about border issues are likely to dominate the Brexit debate in the near future. What will be the impact on the movement of people, goods and services across borders between the UK and the EU and the rest of the world?
Whether it’s a hard Brexit (no agreement with the EU on future arrangements) or a soft Brexit (in, or equivalence with, the Single Market), the independent, international researchers all believe there will be a negative affect on the UK economy. They simply disagree about the scale of the impact.
But, it’s some other border controls that I want to address in this article…those relating to taxi and private hire licensing.
As you travel locally, you will probably have been surprised to see taxis and private hire cars carrying Licence Plates carrying the names of councils in Lancashire, Merseyside, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. (I haven’s seen one from Cornwall yet, but I expect it’s just a matter of time.) You may even have ordered a private hire car to collect you from home, but only when dropped off at your destination, have you noticed the Licence Plate saying “Rossendale”.
What’s going on? Well, some Private Hire Drivers have been exploiting a loophole in the Licensing Regulations which allow them to register in one area and then operate in another. This known as cross-border operation.
Why would they do this? Well, although the legislative framework for taxis and private hire vehicles is the same throughout England (except for London which has different laws), the way in which the regulations are implemented vary from council to council. Historically, you could see this most obviously in relation to whether taxis were required to be purpose-designed (like Sheffield) or an ordinary car (like Barnsley).
The most obvious reason for doing this is that the policies and practices for licensing drivers are much tougher in some areas than in others. So, private hire drivers, who think or know that they wouldn’t get a licence in their own area, are getting themselves licensed in council areas where the rules and tests are less stringent.
We are all aware now of the role of some taxi drivers and private hire drivers in the child sexual abuse scandal in Rotherham and other areas. Rotherham has considerably tightened its licensing requirements. However, because of the legal loophole, Rotherham Council is completely unable to stop the Rotherham operations of drivers who wouldn’t get a licence in Rotherham but are getting a licence elsewhere.
That’s why I’m part of an all-party campaign to get the government to close this loophole quickly. Each day that passes without change, our lives are being risked unnecessarily.
Meanwhile, when you order a cab or private hire car, insist that you only want one whose driver is licensed in your council area.