The new cabinet is being urged to designate a central database for taxi and private hire licensing decisions as soon as possible this Autumn.
The records system is due to be implemented as one of the provisions of the Taxi and Private Hire Vehicles (Safeguarding and Road Safety) Act 2022 which came into force in May.
All licensing authorities will be required to enter cases on the database when a licence has been refused, suspended, revoked, or not renewed based on concerns about safeguarding or road safety.
Law firm Ellis Jones Solicitors, whose regulatory team specialises in taxi and private hire work, expects the National Register of Licence Revocations and Refusals (NR3) to be chosen as the central licensing information database.
Ellis Jones has urged the new Prime Minister Liz Truss and her Secretary of State for Transport Anne-Marie Trevelyan to officially designate a database without delay.
Conor Maher, a solicitor in dispute resolution and regulatory law at Ellis Jones, has written to the Secretary of State for confirmation that action is being taken and for an anticipated timeline for implementation of the provisions of the act.
Mayer said: “The Taxi and Private Hire Vehicles (Safeguarding and Road Safety) Act 2022 was a huge milestone in improving the regulation and oversight of taxi and private hire drivers.
“Whilst any measures to create a safer and more robust system are to be welcomed, it is important that the central database is decided as a matter of urgency to ensure the aims of the act are realised at the earliest opportunity.
“Additionally, the creation of a central database must be implemented in a way which not only safeguards the vulnerable, but is sensitive to the vast majority of highly professional and conscientious drivers providing taxi and private hire services up and down the country.
“Clearly the new Prime Minister and her Secretary of State for Transport have an overflowing in-tray but confirmation of NR3 (or the selection of another system) as the central database to safeguard the vulnerable and protect hardworking taxi and private hire drivers, should be a straightforward and swift decision.”
Ellis Jones, with more than 170 staff including 21 partners, in offices across London and the South, has built up a wealth of experience in supporting taxi and private hire vehicle drivers and operators in licensing disputes and appeals.
Mayer added: “The taxi and private hire sector is often misunderstood by the wider public, and often unfairly viewed in the wake of incidents such as the tragic death of Sian O’Callaghan in 2011.
“Yet this vital industry makes a significant contribution to communities and their local economies, and the impact upon vulnerable people of access to safe and secure taxi and private hire services cannot be overstated.
“Drivers are facing unprecedented challenges including soaring fuel costs and falling consumer spending, amid record inflation and the cost of living crisis.
“While red tape needs to be kept to a minimum, it is more important than ever that the industry receives every support possible from the government and local licensing authorities.”
The Local Government Association (LGA) funded the development of the NR3 system in 2018.
It is hosted by the National Anti-Fraud Network (NAFN) and is already widely used by councils, according to the LGA.
The Taxi and Private Hire Vehicles (Safeguarding and Road Safety) Act 2022 received Royal Assent in March, with commencement and implementation of the Act taking place on 31 May 2022.
The Act primarily creates a centralised database for English Licensing Authorities (LAs) to record ‘relevant information’ in respect of taxi drivers and private hire vehicle drivers, whilst also imposing various duties upon LAs to communicate with each other to improve safeguarding of the public and road safety.
The purpose of the recording and centralisation of the information is to ensure that LAs have access to information about drivers which has been gathered by other LAs and not previously shared.
Ultimately, the intention is to prevent tragedies such as the death of Sian O’Callaghan, who was murdered in 2011 by a taxi driver who had previously been charged (but not prosecuted) with murder in 2007, which the relevant LA was not aware of.