Anyone wishing to register as a taxi driver in Watford will now be screened against a national register of drivers whose licences have been revoked elsewhere.
In the past it has been possible for a taxi driver to have their licence refused or revoked by one licensing authority – only to pick up a licence from another.
That’s because when drivers failed to declare the situation when making an application to a second authority – it was difficult for the authority to make any checks.
But now the Local Government Association, in partnership with the National Anti-Fraud Network, has launched a national register of all Hackney Carriage and private hire drivers who have previously had a licence refused or taken away.
On Monday Watford Council’s licensing committee agreed to use the register, as part of their application process.
Now if a check on the register reveals a refusal or revocation the council will then be able to make follow-up enquiries with the relevant authority and then determine whether or not to grant the licence.
Information about drivers from Watford will also be added to the system so it is available to other licensing authorities too.
Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor said: “I want everyone who gets into a taxi in our town to know that they are safe.
“This new database allows us to look at a whether a driver’s licence has been revoked or refused from another part of the country.
“If we have concerns, we can refuse them the permission to drive in Watford.
“Taxi drivers provide such an important service to our community and so it’s important that we regulate the trade in a fair and transparent way.”
According to the report to the licensing committee, the national register was drawn up because of the difficulties in cross-referencing information and increasing concerns over ‘cross border’ hiring.
“The concern was that a driver could simply re-apply for a licence in a neighbouring authority and continue to work more or less in the same region (or another region) as if nothing had happened,” it said.
Although a false declaration on an application form is a criminal offence, according to a report, 22 warning letters have been issued to drivers in Watford who had failed to fill in their form correctly since July 2018.
Most of these warnings, says the report, related to “very old” convictions or non-conviction issues, such as where an arrest was made but no further action taken.
And, it says, the majority have not impacted on a driver’s fitness to hold a licence.
The council consulted on the changes to the licensing policy in February. No written responses were received.
There was, says the report, one verbal mention of support for the change. And one licence holder expressed concerns that the council would rely upon ‘false reports’ against drivers. However it was explained that this is not hoe the register would work.