Outdated legislation and new technology have meant that councils are unable to take enforcement action against the rising number of unlicensed drivers operating in their area, the Local Government Association has warned.
The LGA renewed its call for the Government to strengthen taxi and private hire legislation – “some of which dates back to 1847 and horse-drawn hackney carriages”.
This was needed to improve passenger safety in light of the proliferation of app-based taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) companies and increased out-of-area working, it said.
The Association has also called for national minimum licensing standards for drivers of taxis and PHVs, and a mandatory national database of all licensed taxi and PHV drivers.
The LGA highlighted how the latest figures showed:
- The total number of licensed taxi and PHVs in England increased to 291,800 in 2019, an increase of 58% on the 184,500 licensed vehicles in 2005 when comparable records were first collected.
- These figures had largely been driven by a surge in licensed PHVs, which have risen to 221,200 in 2019, an increase of 83% on the 120,400 PHVs in 2005.
- The number of people licensed to drive taxis and PHVs increased substantially over the same period, rising by 50%, from 242,000 people to 362,000.
In 2018 the LGA launched its own national register of taxi and PHV licences which have been refused or revoked so councils can check new applicants against the database and update it with their own information.
Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Updating outdated and flawed taxi licensing laws has never been more urgent to provide safer journeys for the public and fairer business for drivers.
“The Government must stick to the commitment that was made earlier this year to reform taxi legislation.
“Reforms are needed to reflect the increasing use of mobile phone apps to book taxis and private hire vehicles and to give councils national enforcement powers so they can take action against any vehicles operating in their areas irrespective of where they are licensed.”
Cllr Blackburn added: “Safeguarding legislation needs to be strengthened following well-documented child exploitation cases where taxi and PHV drivers have abused the trust placed in them.
“Undue delay risks public safety.”