New convictions policy for Leeds taxi drivers may be watered down after outcry

Proposed changes to rules covering Leeds taxi drivers could be made less strict, following resistance from the trade.

Leeds City Council is looking at tightening up its convictions policy for cabbies who commit minor motoring offences and clock up points on their licence.

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It had been suggested that drivers who accumulate more than six points for crimes such as speeding would potentially lose their licence, down from the current threshold of 12.

Members of Leeds Private Hire Drivers Organisation protesting earlier this year. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Cabbies have furiously protested against the move, branding it a disproportionate and draconian policy that will trigger an exodus of drivers from the trade.

Following a public consultation, the council has now put forward another option. It would see drivers with seven or eight points given a warning and potentially being forced to attend extra training.

Those who reach nine points could still lose their licence but each case would be judged on its own merits, with the nature of offences among the factors considered.

One local cabbies’ union that remains unhappy with the updated proposals says it make “no difference” to their original view.

Leeds City Council deputy leader Debra Coupar. Picture: Tony Johnson

Deputy council leader Debra Coupar said the proposed amendments showed the authority had “listened” to the trade.

“There was a huge response to the consultation and some of the feedback received from both the public and the trade we’ve really tried to consider,” she said.

“It’s really important to say here that we’ve got 98.5 per cent of our taxi and private hire drivers providing an excellent service to the public.

“The option going forward to the licensing committee is to establish what provision is in place for the 1.5 per cent of drivers, who may need additional support to get them up to the same standards.”

Coun Coupar said the authority had tried to strike a middle ground between the views of the public, who are generally in favour of stricter measures, and drivers who worry about losing their livelihoods over minor infringements.

She said: “There has to be a balance, with public safety paramount. The drivers are providing a public service because they’re carrying members of the public in their vehicles, but at the same time we’re trying to support and assist the trade.”

Local authorities across the country are going through similar battles with their taxi drivers over changes to convictions policies, which have been prompted by new guidance from the Department of Transport.

But Zahir Mahmood, vice chairman of the Leeds Private Hire Drivers Organisation, said that the council’s amendments “made no difference” and claimed there was no need to change the current 12-point threshold.

He said: “This is about hypocrisy and bureaucracy. It’s people who’ve never been in the trade and who’ve never done this job making the rules up.

“Getting points on your licence is so easy when you’re in a driving job. Drivers can’t make ends meet at the moment. They’re overworked and so they’re going to make these mistakes. They’re being pushed into making mistakes.

“There’s already a shortage of taxi drivers in Leeds at the moment. Give it until next year and with these new regulations passengers will be waiting two to three hours for a slot.”

The policy will be discussed on August 9 by the council’s licensing committee, which will make recommendations.