Taxi drivers will soon have to undertake a safeguarding and knowledge test by North Norfolk Council.
According to the Eastern Daily Press, North Norfolk District Council is introducing a new version of its Taxi Handbook, which guides the requirements for hackney carriages and private hire vehicles and their drivers across the district.
One of the key updates to the handbook, which was last updated in 2016, was the improvement of safeguarding mechanisms and checks.
The update was made in consultation with the North Norfolk Taxi Association, which represents more than 50 per cent of all taxi drivers in the district.
Pierre Bütikofer, chairman of NNDC's licensing committee, said: “It’s important as a council we work with our business communities to ensure that not only safe practice is upheld, but it is improved upon on.
"Working closely and regularly with the North Norfolk Taxi Association is a great opportunity to make sure that the views of the taxi drivers are voiced and as a licensing authority, we can correctly help both the driver and the passenger to make sure our codes of practice are correct, fair and of benefit to all parties.”
As well as the usual credentials, taxi drivers will have to agree to undertake a safeguarding and knowledge test to ensure the safety of both the public and themselves.
The revised Taxi Handbook was approved unanimously at a full council meeting on February 24, and will come into effect from 1 April.
A bogus driver who squeezed a woman's leg had lost his PHV licence after eight complaints about "sexualised" comments.
According to the Liverpool Echo, ex-private hire driver Joseph Prior, 40, went out late at night trying to pick up illegal fares and targeted a "drunk" lone woman.
After she got in the his Ford Focus, he pulled into a quiet street, then put his hand on the "terrified" 23-year-old's thigh.
When she rejected his advances, he took her to a McDonald's drive-thru where she mouthed "help" to staff who rang police.
Prior was jailed for 18 months after admitting common assault and offering his victim cocaine during her ordeal.
He has also been banned from having any female, child or adult, in a car, apart from in a very limited set of circumstances. This unique Criminal Behaviour Order was imposed after a judge set out a history of complaints against him.
Judge Rachel Smith said his private hire licence, issued by Sefton Borough Council, was revoked in February 2018. Liverpool Crown court heard this followed an investigation into allegations made by eight women in 2016 and 2017.
Judge Smith said these passengers alleged Prior made "sexually inappropriate comments" and or attempted to engage them in "sexual conversation". The judge said none of these allegations led to criminal convictions.
But she said: "You had been warned about your behaviour in 2016, but persisted in it, and further allegations in 2017 led to your licence being revoked."
Judge Smith added: "Notwithstanding the revocation of your licence in February 2018, you attempted to seek self-employed taxi work with Britannia Taxis in March that year, and worked for them until November 2018, when they were informed of the situation relating to your licence being revoked by Sefton Borough Council."
The judge said Prior was aware of these past allegations and had been reminded of his obligations to female passengers.
She said it was reasonable to infer he would have been left in "no doubt" about the standards he had to uphold.
The court heard Prior was posing as a taxi driver when he picked up the woman as she walked along Vauxhall Road shortly after midnight on March 9, 2019.
He told her "don't worry, your mum won't be worrying, we'll get you home later" and asked about her boyfriends.
Zillah Williams, prosecuting, said the victim "was very uncomfortable and was afraid of what he might do to her".
Ms Williams said the victim was "terrified" and added: "An inference that could be drawn is that he was over friendly to see if he got anywhere, and when he didn't, he drove off and they carried on to McDonald's."
Following his long-running campaign to improve the treatment and welfare of taxi and PHV drivers across the Bradford District, Imran Hussain MP has formally proposed a comprehensive ‘Taxi Drivers Charter’ for Bradford Council to adopt in their dealings with the district’s drivers.
According to Asian Sunday, the landmark Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Charter that has been drawn up and proposed by Mr Hussain is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK and sets out not only a minimum standard of treatment and service for Bradford Council towards taxi drivers, but also sets out aspirations and proposals to create a stronger working relationship between the two and improve the service that is currently being received by taxi drivers from Bradford Council’s Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Service.
In the five-point plan, the Charter sets out a number of wide-ranging proposals that would improve the responsiveness of Bradford Council’s Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Service to concerns and issues raised by taxi drivers, and crucially, following the devastating impact that the Coronavirus pandemic has had on taxi drivers and their trade, sets out proposals to ensure that drivers receive the financial support that they need to ensure that drivers and their passengers are kept safe and their incomes protected, with additional support to allow them to recover following the crisis.
The Charter is the culmination of Mr Hussain’s campaign and calls that he made last August to Bradford Council in which he slammed the experience and treatment faced by taxi drivers, stating that Bradford Council had “serious questions to answer of its treatment of drivers”, and urged the Council’s leadership to “take an urgent look at the work of their Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Service”, labelling the service as “woefully unacceptable” and their treatment of drivers as “deeply unacceptable.”
Speaking on his push for Bradford Council to adopt his Charter for taxi drivers across the Bradford District, Imran Hussain, MP for Bradford East said: “The taxi trade is an important part of Bradford’s local economy, but for far too long, far too many drivers across the district have been raising with me cases of deeply unacceptable treatment that they have received from Bradford Council, as well as serious issues that remain unresolved, which is hampering the trade and causing great misery for drivers, many of whom are self-employed and working long hours.
“I have always been a champion of our taxi drivers, and I have therefore been campaigning to get a better deal for all of Bradford’s drivers, whether that is hackney carriage or private hire drivers, and today I am proud to set out and propose this ground-breaking Charter for Taxi Drivers that will vastly improve the service and treatment received by drivers and help boost the trade and its recovery throughout Bradford once we see an end to the Coronavirus crisis.
“This Charter is the result of many months of discussions and deep conversations with Bradford’s taxi drivers and with Bradford Council’s leadership to take on board their views and their concerns, and I hope that following my proposal today, Bradford Council will accept and adopt the Charter in full. The experiences of drivers in Bradford and the challenges we face mean that we cannot wait any longer, and I therefore, urge Bradford Council to do so without delay.”
CCTV cameras fitted in all Craven taxis nex month is to be revisited following calls for their installation to be put on hold.
The Craven Herald reports that Keighley and Ilkley MP Robbie Moore has joined more than 100 taxi drivers in appealing to Craven District Council to reconsider making it policy for all licensed vehicles to have CCTV cameras, which cost around £500, fitted by April.
“I fully understand the need for CCTV cameras in licensed vehicles for both the protection of taxi drivers and passengers alike,” said the Conservative MP.
“This issue has been raised with me by a number of local taxi drivers. I do, however, believe that the council should again consider postponing the introduction of these cameras due to the ongoing effect that coronavirus is having on the industry as a whole.
“A local group of taxi drivers have come up with a reasonable time scale which I would urge Craven District Council to consider.”
There are currently 130 hackney carriages and 15 private hire vehicles operating in Craven and the cost of installing cameras for the drivers has been put at between £450 and £600.
In January, the council’s licensing committee agreed to make it policy for all taxis and PHVs to have CCTV fitted for the safety of both drivers and passengers by April. Members at the time said while trade was affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the economy would ‘bounce back’ and pointed out they had been discussing bringing in the policy for about three years.
Councillor Peter Madeley, said while taxi drivers agreed CCTV needed to be introduced, for both their and the public’s safety, now was not the time as they were struggling financially due to the pandemic.
At last week's full council meeting Cllr Madeley was told that CCTV would be discussed at the next licensing committee on April 6, almost a week after the policy was to start, and that no taxi driver would be penalised in the meantime.
Cllr Simon Myers, chairman of licensing, told Cllr Madeley that it was unfortunate that representations had not been made earlier and not just more than a month before it was due to be brought in, but the policy would be re-visited.
He explained that taxi drivers and firms had been made aware of the licensing agenda in January, which included the CCTV policy, and requests had been made by the licensing officer for details of earnings, to inform the committee, but had not been forthcoming.
"We have received correspondence from various taxi firms, a petition by a large number of taxi drivers and we have undertaken to discuss it at the next licensing meeting on April 6," he said.
“We have always entered into dialogue with taxi drivers, and we are always interested in being as fair as we can."
In response to Cllr Madeley's question that no action would be taken against any taxi driver who had failed to have CCTV fitted by the start of April, Cllr Myers said: "I know out there in the public people sometimes think we are unreasonable, believe me we are not going to start forcing people on April 1 knowing that we are having a meeting on April 6. We don’t want to be unduly harsh with anybody, we will look at it again."
He added that it was unfortunate that representations had been left so late, including the petition, signed by more than 100 people and too late to be presented at full council.
“It is unfortunate that four or five weeks before it is due to come in that we get these representations but that will not stop us from considering it," he said.
The NHS has scrapped a confusing letter being used by cabbies to wrongfully receive vaccinations.
According to the Argus, Brighton cabbies have been heading to Covid vaccination centres after an NHS letter appeared to state that all working drivers were entitled to a jab. But unknown to those drivers, the authorisation letter was only supposed to be sent to drivers contracted by the NHS to take people to and from their vaccination appointments.
The authorisation letter has reportedly been passed to about 2,000 drivers working in Brighton and Hove – as well as many more further afield. Due to the letter’s wording, it is understood that taxi drivers have been using it at the city’s vaccination centres successfully over the past fortnight.
The letter states that “all working drivers should be treated as frontline staff” and can receive the vaccine as long as they were “prepared to continue supporting patients to get to and from their vaccination appointments”.
This was interpreted as meaning that any taxi driver was entitled to a vaccine, as long as they were prepared to take people to the vaccination centres.
However, the NHS confirmed to The Argus that it was only supposed to be used by drivers undertaking contracted NHS work and the health service will now be sending out new instructions to clarify the situation.
A spokeswoman for the NHS said: “Only taxi drivers contracted to provide patient transport services for the vaccination programme are eligible. The NHS is putting arrangements in place to ensure these drivers can access a vaccination.”
At the moment, only people aged 60 and over, people who are clinically extremely vulnerable, people who live or work in care homes, or health and social care workers can receive the jab.
Amid the confusion, the GMB Union sent an email out which said: “You do not need to specifically do this (vaccination) via any cab company or specifically have anything to do with undertaking NHS contracted work.
“However it is considered that you will possibly be taking people to the vaccination centres etc. All you need to do is download the attached (NHS letter) and print it out. Then go to this website (NHS vaccination booking) to book yourself in.”
A spokesman for Streamline Taxis said: “I think it’s been shared by a driver and has gotten out – anything in a taxi company will just move very quickly.
“Streamline has done nothing wrong, the letter doesn’t state that you have to do NHS contract work and it was given to us by a third party who had already been vaccinated with it.”
City Cabs declined a request for comment.
A spokesperson for the Sussex Covid Vaccination Programme said: “Health and care workers, including patient transport providers, who work in direct contact with patients as part of the Covid-19 vaccination programme are eligible for the COVID19 vaccination.
“Across Sussex, a number of taxi firms have been contracted to provide patient transport services for the vaccination programme, transporting vulnerable patients to and from their appointments, in line with strict safety and service standards. These drivers are eligible for immunisation and their arrangements for receiving the vaccine are being made through the contracted taxi firms.
“Transport workers in general are not currently eligible for the vaccine. Renewed proof of eligibility is currently being provided to the specific taxi firms and drivers who are supporting patient transport for the vaccination programme, and these are in the process of being issued.
“If you are unsure if you are eligible for vaccination, please contact your employer. Please do not book a vaccination appointment if you are not eligible as you will be turned away when you arrive at the vaccination site.”