The number of complaints about taxi drivers in Leeds increased last year, new statistics reveal.
A report presented to Leeds City Council members today shows that 658 complaints against the taxi and private hire licensed trade were received in 2017, up from 576 in 2016.
Customers’ main gripe was about the standard of driving - in most cases speeding and using mobile phones - which prompted 174 complaints overall.
Some 136 complaints were lodged about driver conduct, which accounts for concerns not covered in the other 23 categories, for example drivers playing music too loudly.
The report states that 143 drivers were suspended in 2017, up from 110 in 2016. Three licences were revoked for sexual reasons, with 19 licences also suspended due to sexual offence allegations, according to the report. The number of complaints about inappropriate sexual behaviour dropped to 22 in 2017 from 29 in 2016.
The statistics make up all the complaints received in the city of Leeds, not just from drivers licensed there.
However, while 6,049 of Leeds drivers have attended compulsory safeguarding training, 109 are still to do so.
Andrew White, executive officer for taxi and private hire licensing, said the majority of people who had not taken the training were new drivers, but added: “It’s a bit like ‘the dog ate my homework’, it does feel like an excuse.”
Councillors at the Civic Hall raised concerns about the licensing department’s policy of sending three warning letters to drivers who have not attended the training – some had claimed to not have received the first ones.
Conservative Coun Billy Flynn told Mr White: “Given the publicity we’ve had, especially in South Yorkshire, I would have thought they would be banging on your door to get this training.”
Mr White added there was a need to be “cautious” about suspending licences, but said anyone who had not taken the course by April could expect suspensions.
A spokeswoman for Leeds City Council said: “In the past few years, Leeds City Council has put in place some of the strongest conditions in the country for taxi and private hire drivers.
"All new drivers are required to pass driver training before they can be licensed, which includes training on literacy, legislation, local knowledge and customer care.
"All drivers and operators, not just new drivers, are required to undertake safeguarding training, so that they are aware of their responsibilities to keep passengers safe, and all current drivers and operators are required to have a current Disclosure and Barring (DBS) check, to register with the national DBS service, and to report any arrests, cautions and convictions.
"These conditions and training are not in place in every authority in the country.
"Leeds has a successful, safe and vibrant night time economy, as recognised by the city centre’s award of Purple Flag status in 2016, and reaccreditation in February 2018.
"We are committed to ensuring the city remains a safe place for everyone, especially at night, and especially for vulnerable people. We work very closely with locally licensed taxi and private hire drivers and operators, and welcome feedback and comments about people’s experiences in Leeds.
"I would also urge people to read the information provided by the Council about what steps people can take to make sure they are safe when booking a private hire or hailing a taxi.”
Of the drivers suspended during 2017 for a sexual offence or allegation of one: seven were a result of a complaint, one was a report of a historic offence, nine were investigated by the police, nine resulted in further action either by West Yorkshire Police or the council, the resulted in no further action (for example, the complaint was subsequently withdrawn) and seven are currently suspended until the investigation is complete.