A tightening of rules governing the private hire trade in Leeds has been announced by licensing chiefs, as they bid to increase professionalism and public trust in the trade.
Leeds has 90 different private hire companies operating, and bosses say a “comprehensive review” is well overdue, especially in the context of the growth of the industry, advances in technology and increased public safety expectations.
Among the changes to be introduced is a more stringent knowledge test for drivers.
The amount of time after which people with criminal convictions can apply for licences could also be expanded.
There is also a proposed tightening of rules regarding paperwork for base operators. Firms will be urged to invest in equipment which will help it keep voice recordings of all bookings. This is partly to help investigators detect false booking entries, which often arise when a driver is accused of plying for hire, something that has been a perennial issue in Leeds.
Also included in the list of proposals is encouraging the wearing ‘of “corporate clothing” to “improve the image of the trade in the city”.
The issue of ‘out of town’ drivers working in Leeds while registered elsewhere will also be explored. Enforcement officers currently have little power to act on non-Leeds drivers.
Des Broster, head of the taxi licensing unit at Leeds City Council, told a meeting of the licensing panel that the review was about ensuring businesses are conducted in a “fit and proper” and “professional and regulated” manner.
He said that in the late evenings, private hire is the biggest supplier of licenced transport in Leeds.
It is a trade which has “developed enormously”, he said, and most of it is run “very professionally” but there are exceptions.
The new rules would be focused on “training as opposed to sanction”, he added, and the aim was “not to restrict working practice...but to have proper measures in place”.