Council accused of not taking issue of ‘illegal’ taxi drivers seriously

Taxi lamp lit generic
Image: Shaiith/Shutterstock

Bedford’s hackney drivers are demanding to know why Bedford Borough Council isn’t taking reports of out-of-area drivers flaunting the law when picking up passengers.

The Bedford Action Group (which represents hackney and private hire drivers, including taxis and minicabs) claimed minicab drivers from other areas are dropping off their fares in Bedford – and then illegally touting for fares by parking in taxi ranks when their licence only covers booked passengers.

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They say this is taking trade away from local hackney drivers.

But Bedford Borough Council said it has no legal powers to investigate or sanction drivers from other areas.

David Masih, from Bedford Action Group, said: “If Bedford drivers go to other areas, such as Milton Keynes, and illegally pick up passengers, their compliance officers have no hesitation to report the driver to Bedford Borough Council

“Why is our council not the same?

“It just seems that these out-of-town drivers see Bedford as a soft touch, so they can break the law with no repercussions.”

A Bedford Borough Council spokesperson said: “Private hire vehicles licensed by other local authorities can only operate in the borough when they are booked through a private hire operator licenced by Bedford Borough Council.

“Complaints about a vehicle licenced by another local authority should be reported directly to the local authority that has licenced the vehicle.

“This is because only that authority has legal powers to investigate the complaint and impose any sanctions against the licence holder.

“If the complaint is made to Bedford Borough Council, we will refer it to the authority which licensed the vehicle, who would then need to contact the person submitting the complaint.”

In the Department for Transport’s Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing Best Practice Guidance for Licensing Authorities in England (November 2023), it says “licensing authorities should, where the need arises, jointly authorise officers from other authorities so that compliance and enforcement action can be taken against licensees from outside their area”.

The guidance said such an agreement would enable the use of compliance and enforcement powers regardless of which authority within the agreement employs the officer and which issued the licence.

Therefore will mitigate the opportunities for licensees to evade regulation.

As an example of a joint authority agreement, Telford & Wrekin Council has recently prosecuted a Shropshire Council private hire vehicle driver for unlawfully picking up passengers.

Telford & Wrekin Council told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that it formalised a Local Authority Joint Partnership for taxi licensing earlier this year to work together to “safeguard the public and bring a consistent approach to licensing and enforcement”.

The LDRS asked the council why it didn’t have a similar agreement in place with bordering authorities.

The spokesperson said: “We are currently looking at the number of vehicles operating in our area that are currently licensed by other authorities.

“We will then look to discuss enforcement with the individual councils.”

David Masih said: “Under the Town Police Clauses Act updated 1976, Bedford council could take action against out of town drivers for criminal offences.

“More needs to be done to protect the public and the local trade.”

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter