Taxi drivers want to revive trade forum

Taxi driver, Ray Bailey, right, has started a petition calling on South Ribble Council to raise taxi fares because taxi drivers are struggling, from left, taxi drivers, Gerard Burne, James Belfield and Scott Washington
Taxi driver, Ray Bailey, right, has started a petition calling on South Ribble Council to raise taxi fares because taxi drivers are struggling, from left, taxi drivers, Gerard Burne, James Belfield and Scott Washington
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Taxi drivers in South Ribble are keen to move on in the wake of the scandal that hit their trade.

Operators want to re-establish a Taxi Trade Forum in the borough.

They have already suggested to South Ribble Council that matters for discussion could include the rigour of qualifications drivers need under current licensing policy.

A report released last year into a taxi driver child sex abuse scandal at South Ribble Council highlighted failings of the licensing department and safeguarding policies.

It came after concerns were first raised by council staff in November 2015 that one taxi driver was arrested for sexual assault on a primary school girl and a ‘vulnerable’ 16-year-old girl complained that a male driver made “inappropriate sexualised remarks” to her.

Solicitors concluded that there “had been a lack of awareness and priority given to safeguarding and the safety of taxi passengers in the manner in which licensing issues were addressed.”

Key problems identified in the 34-page report included:

l Licences were routinely issued without proper documentation.

l Problems with a new IT system meant proper checks weren’t made about drivers.

l Investigations into concerns about taxi drivers lacked structure and record keeping was poor.

l Liaison with other agencies “lacked structure”.

The report called on the council to make a raft of improvements, including tightening record keeping, identifying risks to the public and training. It said a number of improvements had now been completed or were set to be completed.

The council’s general licensing committee is due meet today (Tuesday).

Councillors will be told in a report from officers that in recent years, members of the committee have met with representatives of the local licensed trade on a regular basis to discuss matters of mutual interest and concern.

However, the arrangement had lapsed in recent months and a meeting had not been held for some time. The local taxi have trade welcome the opportunity to engage with the committee and want the forum to be given a new lease of life.

Ray Bailey, a member of the South Ribble Taxi Owners’ Association, welcomed the news.

He said the association had appeared to have broken up and members “gone their own way” and that this alone was one reason it was important to have regular forum meetings.

“Definitely,” he said. “I think there’s definitely a need for more rigorous testing. I’m in favour of it, not just in South Ribble but across the country.”

Mr Bailey, a hackney cab driver for 27 years, said he thought the scandal could be the main reason for the forum dying out and said it was important for all parties to get together.

“We need to be able to come forward and speak to the council about their concerns and for them to listen to our concerns,” he said.

John Gregory, a hackney cab driver for 25 years, said: “I’m sure the drivers will welcome them back.

“I’m sure most of the drivers would appreciate speaking to the council again.”

Council leader Peter Mullineaux said: “It’s really important that we work closely with our taxi drivers to seek their opinions and to give them a chance to put forward their views. We hope the forums will be much more structured than previously, to make sure we make the best use of the time we have, and that the chair of the general licensing committee will be taking a leading role in working with our taxi drivers.”