Update on the Taxi Licensing Internal Audit report
This report seeks to update Members on the recent Taxi Licensing Internal Audit report which was discussed at the Audit and Governance Committee on 19 September 2018. The Corporate Director of Economy and Place committed to providing the Gambling Licensing & Regulatory Committee with an update report on that occasion.
Members considered a report that updated them on the recent Taxi Licensing Internal Audit report which was discussed at the Audit and Governance Committee on 19 September 2018.
The Head of Public Protection outlined the report. He advised that there was no legal requirement to carry out Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks for taxi drivers, although it was considered best practice. The taxi licensing policy stated that DBS checks would be carried out for new taxi drivers and then every three years. He added that all taxi drivers had been DBS checked before being granted a licence.
The Head of Public Protection noted that the ongoing/refresher checks were a ‘backstop’ to a number of other activities which took place to determine whether drivers continued to be ‘fit and proper persons’ throughout the term of their licence. As part of the
other ‘activities’, taxi drivers are required by law to notify
Licensing Officers if they are arrested and/ or charged with any offence and were also to make a ‘self declaration’ of any notifiable offences upon renewal of a licence. Concerning drivers’ self notification the police shared information on the arrests of taxi drivers for serious offences, which had resulted in licence suspensions or revocations. It was noted that the number of complaints against taxi drivers was very small in relation to the number of taxi drivers.
Members were informed that since 16 July 2018, all drivers who had not had a current DBS check had been written to and asked to commence the process – this being 685 of the 1049 total taxi drivers (and this figure included drivers who ‘became due’ during the process). Of these 685 drivers, 477 (70%) checks had been completed. A further 47 (7%) had or were in the process of surrendering their licence as they were no longer driving. There were 117 drivers at various stages in the checking process. To date there have been no issues of concern raised as a result of the checks undertaken. The 44 remaining drivers (6%) were being ‘chased’ through letters and regular telephone calls and some of these drivers are not thought to be active and have left the trade. A very small minority were refusing to engage and it was proposed that those drivers who had not engaged in the process could continue to be considered ‘fit and proper’ persons to hold licences.
The Head of Public Protection outlined the options and timescales as detailed in the report. In response to questions from the Committee, he confirmed that:
Concerning the small number of taxi drivers that had refused to engage in the checking process, the process ‘chasing’ up their checks involved letters being sent and officers phoning those drivers daily. It was noted that there was a cost of £44 to the drivers for their DBS checks.
It was the responsibility of taxi drivers to inform their licensing authority if their licence had been suspended or revoked, or if their application had been refused.
The DBS refresher checks had not been carried out over a number of years, dating back to 2012. The reason for this was explained and the Assistant Director Planning and Public Protection confirmed that management actions were in place to ensure that this did not happen again.
DBS checks were undertaken using an external company, and the verification process was explained. The Licensing Manager clarified that the taxi licensing service was a registered body to undertake DBS checks. The advice from the Disclosure and Barring Service was that existing DBS checks could only be accepted under the ‘other service’ category.
Following debate it was:
Members note the report, in particular the progress made on the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.
The Committee be provided with receive an update report in three months and then every six months thereafter.
Officers consider whether the handful of drivers who have not engaged in the process can continue to be considered ‘fit and proper’ persons.
Reason: To ensure that the Council is satisfied that all hackney and private hire drivers (from here on referred to generically as taxi drivers) continue to be ‘fit and proper persons’ to hold a licence as required by the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.