Bury’s taxi trade has welcomed plans to introduce common minimum standards for drivers and vehicles across the city region, a licensing chief said.
According to the Bury Times, the initiative is being backed by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham who is also calling on the ten authorities to push for the closing of a legal loophole allowing drivers to work outside the area that granted their licences.
Worries over “out of town” drivers have come to the fore again recently, after some Bury private hire operators began employing drivers who have obtained their licences elsewhere and therefore may not be up to the standard expected by Bury Council.
Cllr David Jones, chairman of Bury Council’s planning and safety panel, says operators in the borough have expressed enthusiasm about the introduction of minimum standards across Greater Manchester. Reporting on a recent trade liaison meeting he said: “We were pleased that the taxi trade was in agreement with the principle that we go for common minimum standards across Greater Manchester.
“They see it as a way of protecting their interests in the trade as well – repelling these in-comers from other areas taking business off them.
“It’s still in the early stages of what we want to come up with, but they were very supportive.”
Cllr Noel Bayley said the imposition of minimum standards could give rise to an additional issue as the trade was pushing for older vehicles to be permitted, while the council was keen that only newer vehicles be used.
But Cllr Jones said: “This is about minimum standards; some councils don’t have an age policy at all, at least we do. The suggestion that we make cars younger still is for a time in the future.”
The council’s licensing unit manager Michael Bridge added: “Transport for Greater Manchester is having a conversation with the travelling public in Greater Manchester about the taxi trade.
“Once the finalisation of common minimum standards has happened there will be a three-month consultation with the trade. The idea is that, at that point, a generic report will go to all licensing panels and committees to implement the common minimum standards.”
Mr Bridge also told the committee about an enforcement operation the council had undertaken in Ramsbottom with the police, DVSA and revenue and customs officers
The committee heard that a number of drivers had been warned over not displaying the correct signage on their vehicles.
Two representatives of the National Private Hire and Taxi Association attended the meeting between trade representatives and council officers in Manchester in July, chaired by the Mayor Andy Burnham. There were several recurring messages at this meeting:
1. How soon can the ten Greater Manchester boroughs achieve a minimum standard? This leans heavily on whether national government can instigate new legislation, and we all know this won’t happen during the current Parliamentary session.
2. What can be done about the out-of-area drivers and vehicles impinging on Manchester territories? Again, this will depend upon any changes to current legislation brought about by national government.
3. If a reciprocal enforcement arrangement is agreed amongst all ten boroughs, how soon can this arrangement be implemented? This depends on many factors, not least is cost-sharing amongst the boroughs.
4. Why has a consultation been circulated for the general public before consulting with the trade in the same detail? That wasn’t answered really… once again it’s ‘hurry up and wait’. PHTM will bring regular up-dates for readers, as always.