Taxi law change sparks safety fears

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Fears surrounding the safety of taxi passengers in Kirklees have been raised ahead of new government legislation which will be introduced next week.

Changes made by the Deregulation Act which will give private hire operators the power to sub-let bookings for taxis to other companies based anywhere in the UK come into force on October 1.

As a result, passengers in Kirklees who order a taxi from an operator they trust may be picked up by a vehicle licensed by a different council to Kirklees, with potentially less stringent checks on drivers.

Kirklees Council leader David Sheard has raised concerns that the legislation compromises the safety of passengers .

He said: “We take the safety of our residents and visitors very seriously and we are very concerned about the implications of the new Act, and the risk it poses to the travelling public.

“We have worked hard to establish a strong licensing process with robust policies which includes rigorous background checks on new drivers, ongoing checks for existing drivers and high standards for vehicle safety and customer service.”

Contact has been made with neighbouring West Yorkshire authorities in a bid to establish common licensing standards which may mitigate the impact of the new regulations.

Coun Sheard added that standards in other local authority areas “may not meet” those of Kirklees, which enforces training on all taxi drivers on the issue of child sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox, said: “This would create a problem of accountability. If there is a problem with a driver who is operating locally, Kirklees may have no powers to do anything about it.

“I believe that our own local authority is best placed to safeguard taxi customers.”