Liverpool must do more about the problems facing good private hire and hackney carriage drivers as they struggle to do business in our City Centre
Readers of my blog and the Liverpool Echo will be aware that on two occasions recently I have gone out I the small hours of the morning to look at the problems of taxis and parking in the City Centre. The first time I went out with taxi drivers and the second with our own council licensing staff.
It is quite clear that there are huge problems. Private hire vehicles waiting for people to approach them as if they were a taxi and then accepting the fare; unlicensed private hire vehicles; uninsured private hire vehicles; dangerous private hire and hackney cabs; hackney cabs from other areas waiting on taxi ranks and picking up fares in the street; parking on taxi ranks meaning that taxis have nowhere to wait for fares.
There are a number of reasons for this some of which are not in our control. For example, if our taxi licensing staff want to put on a fixed penalty notice for illegal parking of a private car they have to change their uniform to do it. There are just too many private hire and taxis being licensed – a fault of the Government in 2013.
I have discussed this with our licensing spokesperson Cllr Malcolm Kelly who has been dealing with these issues for years and as a result of this he has tabled the resolution below to the next meeting of the City Council.
But there are many things that we could do something about. In Liverpool, we do not need a change in policies and partners – we just need the people to implement them! On at Thursday; Friday; Saturday and Sunday night there can be up to 2,500 vehicles in the City Centre looking for fares. We usually have just two people dealing with them and other things as well. The result is that they just cannot cope no matter how good they are because of the volume of complaints. We can do something about this by taking on more staff. These would be self-financing from the fines that they could generate for illegal parking and other more serious offences. We are asking the City Mayor to do just this.
The Local Government Association has suggested that there needs to be a common and consistent licensing and training system for private hire and hackney carriages nationally. That needs legislative change but we could do something about this in the Liverpool City Region. There have already been some discussions at this level to try and introduce a standard, consistent and high-quality training and licensing regime in the LCR. This could be done quickly by joint agreement between the 6 councils of the City Region if they were brought together by Mayor Rotheram. We are asking him to do just that.
You might think that we are being over prescriptive in this. Our reply is that taxis and private hire vehicles are an important part of our visitor and leisure attraction. We need to have properly trained and licenses drivers in vehicles that are properly maintained and insured. We want our drivers to be ambassadors for the City, knowledgeable about the city and able to help people. We do not want people who can only navigate by app and who cannot communicate the values and places of Liverpool to visitors.
Normally, our motions just get voted down. We hope that the Labour Party will realise that this is a matter of huge concern and public safety and that they will work with us to deliver the safe and helpful service which is so badly need.
Here is the resolution that will be moved by Cllr Malcolm Kelly
Private Hire and Hackney Carriages in Liverpool
Council welcomes the statement from the Local Government Association that there needs to be minimum standards and a common licensing framework for all Taxis and private hire vehicles.
It notes the immediate problems in the Liverpool City Region where vast numbers of licences are being granted with inconsistent ‘knowledge’ tests and that many of the licensees then try to make their money in the Liverpool City Centre. This can lead to situations where the public are entering uninsured and unsafe vehicles as revealed earlier this year in a Liverpool Echo report and video.
It believes that public vehicle drivers should know more than just the way to get from one place to another using Apps. These people are often the first people to meet people coming to the City and the last to see them and it is, therefore crucial, that they are knowledgeable about the city and able to act as our internal ambassadors in many ways.
It notes that on busy nights there can be up to 2,500 PH and Hackney vehicles looking for business in the City and that on most nights there are only two licensing staff on duty. These staff then sometimes have to change uniform to issue FPN tickets for offender parking in taxi bays.
Accordingly, it requests –
- City Mayor to consider increasing the number of licensing and taxi enforcement staff on duty on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights on the basis that this should be self-financing from fine income; and
- the Liverpool City Region Mayor to speed up the suggestion already being made of a common licensing standard, training mechanism and control mechanisms which operates throughout the City Region and combining the Taxi function as one seamless operation in the City Region.