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Friday, December 1, 2023

Plying for hire and poor behaviour: why taxi drivers have lost their licences

Plying for hire and “inappropriate behaviour” are the most common reasons behind Leeds taxi drivers losing their licences, council data has shown.

Since 2019, 86 private hire and hackney carriage drivers have had their right to trade revoked, according to Leeds City Council’s annual licensing report.

The number represents a tiny fraction of the city’s trade, with around 6,000 drivers currently operating locally.

Plying for hire – where drivers illegally pick up a passenger in the street without taking a prior booking – was responsible for 29 of the revocations, although most of those date back to before the Covid pandemic.

Only hackney carriages are allowed to take passengers without a booking.

Inappropriate behaviour was the second-most common reason, with 22 revocations, while motoring offences accounted for 20 drivers losing their right to trade.

Ahmad Hussain, chair of the Leeds Private Hire Drivers Organisation (LPHDO) said the figures demonstrated that the trade was predominantly full of good people.

“86 drivers across four years is, in the context of the whole trade, a minimal number,” he said.

“It proves what we’ve said all along, which is that the vast majority of drivers are decent, honest people who work hard and protect the travelling public they carry around with them.

“We don’t need the bad eggs.”

Mr Hussain said he hoped the numbers would encourage the council to change how it makes decisions on whether or not to revoke a taxi driver’s licence.

Traditionally those calls have always been made by licensing officers, though some local authorities refer the decision to a panel of councillors.

Although Leeds is now shifting to a panel system for drivers who’ve clocked up too many penalty points on their licence, there’s no indication yet that that approach will apply to all cases.

Figures from the report also showed that 76 local drivers had their licences suspended last year, though in nearly half of all cases that was due to medical reasons.

Relations between the taxi trade and the city council have soured in recent years, primarily due to contentious changes to the way they’re regulated.

Under new rules brought in last year, drivers who reach nine penalty points for minor offences risk losing their licence, down from the previous threshold of 12.

The LPHDO claimed the change was disproportionate, given that taxi drivers cover many more miles than the average motorist.

The council insisted, however, that it was acting on government guidance which has been handed down to all local authorities and that the new rules are still less strict than in other areas.

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