Council chiefs in the dark on ‘bonfire of red tape’ which will deregulate industry

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Taxis shake-up is a danger, say MPs Taxis shake-up is a danger, say MPs

Council chiefs in Bradford say they have been left in the dark about a looming ‘bonfire’ of taxi regulations branded dangerous by some MPs.

A hasty shake-up – to be voted on as early as next week – will cut so-called ‘red tape’ on taxis and private hire firms, to save an estimated £9m a year.

Ministers say current laws are “archaic and complex”, imposing unnecessary checks and restrictions on drivers and operators. But the changes have been fiercely criticised by some MPs, who fear it will be easier for people to pose as licensed drivers, putting women in particular in danger. And it will be harder for local councils to crack down on rogue firms, the critics say, because of the scrapping of annual checks. During a recent House of Commons debate, ministers were told: “The proposals will endanger the safety of the travelling public.”

Now Bradford Council has revealed it was entirely unaware of the shake-up, until alerted to it by the T&A.

A spokesman said: “Officers had to go online to research what these proposed changes are. There has been no communication from the Government.”

The Local Government Association (LGA) protested it was also in the dark, despite taxis and minicabs forming “an essential part of the transport network.” It rapped ministers, saying: “The failure to discuss these proposals with councils in advance of the parliamentary process significantly reduces the opportunity for councils to provide constructive input on the feasibility of proposals and their potential impact.”

The changes, to the Deregulation Bill, would: l Allow non-licence holders, perhaps a family member, to drive a private hire vehicle when they are ‘off duty.’ l Introduce three-year licences for taxis and private hire drivers – and five years for operators – scrapping annual checks in many areas.

l Allow minicab operators to ‘subcontract’ bookings to other operators in a different district, without the passenger’s knowledge.

During the debate, Labour MP Grahame Morris said: “This is a mad ideological rush to deregulate.”

But Stephen Hammond, the transport minister, welcomed “pragmatic changes” that would save £9m and a “great deal of administrative hassle.”

He said: “These amendments will make life easier and remove restrictions that are completely unnecessary.”

The Deregulation Bill returns to the Commons next Tuesday, one of the last pieces of legislation before the end of the parliamentary session – probably on Thursday.

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