More than 100 taxis operating illegally in Nottingham, says head of city licensing

This post first appeared on Nottingham Post. Read the original article.

Nottingham's licensing boss has said more than 100 taxis are operating illegally on the streets of the city – with major concerns that it is only a matter of time until public safety is put at risk.

Richard Antcliff, chief for licensing at Nottingham City Council, has lifted the lid on the escalating problem.

He said it is illegal for drivers to get private hire licences from other councils and then "tout" for business on the city streets.

Richard Antcliff, chief for licensing at Nottingham City Council, outside Central Police Station.

Richard Antcliff, chief for licensing at Nottingham City Council, outside Central Police Station.

Mr Antcliff claimed taxis with licences from nearby councils such as Gedling, Rushcliffe and even some as far away as Wolverhampton, are illegally parking on city streets to pick up passengers.

The city council is powerless to stop it as the local authority is only responsible for drivers with Nottingham City Council licenses, he added, while taxi wardens will only be able to issue the vehicles with a parking fine.

He told the Post: "We are working with the taxi drivers with the union Unite who say they are having their livelihoods stolen from under their noses and they are absolutely right.

"Our priority concern is public safety. We have an inordinate amount of private hire vehicles that are illegally touting for business, which is a criminal offence.

"There are lots of local authorities that are issuing licences – far too many of them - such as Wolverhampton, Gedling and Rushcliffe.

"You end up with a driver from Nottingham going to get his or her licence from Wolverhampton because it is cheaper and easier to obtain and then coming to work in Nottingham.

Taxi drivers on Trent Street have been protesting about illegal drivers in the city.

"If they are doing pre-booked jobs from their operator, that is perfectly legal but what we are finding is a vast amount of Gedling, Rushcliffe and Wolverhampton drivers are illegally operating in the city as illegal touts and putting the public at risk.

"These councils are issuing the licences, taking a vast amount of income from charging drivers for the licence, and leaving cities like Nottingham with the problem of illegal activity - and leaving the police with a lot of work and they do not have the resources.

"I am under no illusion at some point one of these drivers will cause a nasty offence on a member of the public. Assault or sexual offences from the taxi industry in nearly every case is from an illegal tout.

"Our big ask is for the public to please make sure you make the right choice – use one of the city’s green hackneys or pre-book a private hire."

Mr Antcliff also wants to see a change in national legislation so that the city council has the power to take action against these drivers rather than the responsibility resting with the authority that has issued their licence.

It also wants Gedling, Rushcliffe and Wolverhampton to take responsibility for their drivers.

Kaleem Ashraf, secretary of union Unite, which represents hackney taxi drivers in the city, told the Post: "We have had Peterborough licences here, Wolverhampton, and a Leeds taxi.

"They are not going through Nottingham City Council but other places to get their licences.

Taxis on Trent Street

"We need to clear up the city. It is littered with illegal activity and people want to know they are getting into safe cabs.

"It is affecting trade but it is also about public safety.

"After 12am on the weekends, well over 50 percent of private hires are operating as hackneys. They are also charging whatever they want because the meter will not be regulated by Nottingham City Council."

Chander Sood, 58, hackney driver for 17 years, added: "Things are totally out of control. We are 50 to 60 percent down on our income. It needs to be handled."

Councillor Alan Bolshaw, chairman of City of Wolverhampton Council’s licensing committee, said "only 12 Wolverhampton vehicles" are registered in Nottingham.

He told the Post: "As Mr Antcliff should know, the Deregulation Act enabled private hire operators and drivers to choose where they apply for their licences.

"City of Wolverhampton Council has invested in a state of the art online system which enables us to process licences much faster than most other areas.

"This makes us an attractive proposition to drivers who are choosing to apply here and we cannot turn them away providing they meet our stringent standards.

"We take the issue of passenger safety extremely seriously and our standards are among the best anywhere in the country and have been recognised by the Home Office which has urged other areas to adopt our guidelines.

"I am happy to meet with any representatives from Nottingham to constructively discuss these issues."

Councillor John Clarke, leader of Gedling Borough Council, added: "We have been working with our colleagues at Nottingham City on joint enforcement exercises in the city and have more planned in the near future.

"We take enforcement very seriously, if a driver is prosecuted for any offence, they would be referred to our licencing committee.

"Rogue drivers are a concern and more needs to be done but it’s important not to assume that all taxis with Gedling plates in the city are illegally plying for hire.

"With the increase in taxi apps and online booking sites, more and more customers are using this form of pre-booked taxi services and it’s legal to do so."

Darryl Burch, service manager for neighbourhoods for Rushcliffe Borough Council, said: "Rushcliffe would fully support any action taken by Nottingham City Council where a licensing offence is observed.

"Rushcliffe itself cannot currently enforce any taxi licencing infringements that take place outside of our borough.

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"We are, however, working on a cross border enforcement policy along with other Nottinghamshire districts and the City Council which will help us to enforce infringements by Rushcliffe licensed taxi drivers where ever they occur in the county."