Liverpool Council will be the first in the country to let taxi and private hire drivers avoid punishments if they agree to go on a special improvement course.
The authority is set to introduce an optional ‘speed-awareness-style’ course to help improve things such as behaviour, driving standards and customer service amongst the city’s hackney and private hire drivers.
It will also address issues relating to the conditions of vehicles being used in Liverpool - which the council said is a concern.
The new Improvement Training Course could also be cost-effective for the cash-strapped authority as it would offer relief for its stretched team of enforcement officers who currently have to monitor the thousands of licensed vehicles in the city.
This would be an optional course, which will be offered to taxi and private hire drivers as a means of avoiding other punishments and enforcement action.
In the same way that regular drivers can take part in a speed awareness course to avoid licence points and fines, the course could take the place of fixed penalty notices for licensed drivers.
Drivers won’t have to take up the offer and won’t be punished further if they refuse - but it could be a way of them avoiding more formal enforcement action.
The new course will cover items such as the legislation surrounding the issue of defective tyres - which the council said is a growing issue. There will also be aspects looking at the customer service, attitude and behaviour of drivers.
Other areas covered will include driving standards and the condition of licensed vehicles. The course will need to be completed within two months of it being offered and accepted. Once a driver has completed the course, they will not be offered it as an option to avoid other action for three years.
Principally, the council said it believes the course will drive up standards and will potentially stop licensed drivers being taken off the road. But there is no doubt that this is a cost-cutting effort from the authority as well.
Earlier this year a Liverpool Echo investigation showed that the city centre is at times overrun with drivers committing offences, including illegally plying for hire, and the council admitted it is struggling to cope.
The offer of an Improvement Training Course would remove the need for costly further enforcement on a particular licence holder and hopefully lead to better long-term behaviour by said driver, which would ease the burden on the council’s licensing and enforcement staff.
Cllr Christine Banks is the chair of the council’s Licensing Committee. She told the Liverpool Echo: “We’re doing a huge amount of work to help raise standards and address concerns about the hackney and private hire trade, but there’s a fine balance to be struck and we don’t want to end up putting drivers out of business unnecessarily.
“The proposal we are consulting on would see us offering an alternative to more serious enforcement action, the equivalent of a speed awareness course for taxi drivers.
“It would be a chance to put their vehicle in order. Clearly, if they don’t we will throw the book at them, but initially we want to give them the opportunity to put things right.”
Mmmmm.... hopefully this course will not be “Mickey Mouse”, as the Speed Awareness Course has been labelled by some – Ed