Proposed reforms to South Cambs taxis include more CCTV and wheelchair accessible vehicles

There are proposed licensing reforms to South Cambs taxis.

There are proposed licensing reforms to South Cambs taxis. - Credit: Archant

Changes to taxi licences in South Cambs would mean CCTV in most vehicles and more accessible transport, if new guidelines are given the green light.

A new taxi licensing policy has been recommended for adoption by South Cambridgeshire District Council, which currently licenses around 1,000 drivers and 900 vehicles that work through 140 licensed operators.

The proposed guidelines say that all hackney carriages, which can be flagged down, and most private hire vehicles which need to be pre-booked, must have CCTV installed. This would be to record evidence in case of any disputes.

Drivers and operators would be given until April 2020 to install approved cameras in their vehicles. The only private hire vehicles exempt from this rule would be those that mainly carry out executive, corporate work.

The proposed policy also states that, in future, all hackney carriages will have to be fully wheelchair-accessible. This means they must be capable of safely loading, transporting and unloading a passenger in a wheelchair via a ramp into the vehicle. Grab handles at doors would also become mandatory on these vehicles, to assist the elderly and disabled.

The proposed guidelines also state that people convicted of the most serious offences, including sexual or indecent assault, will be refused a licence outright.

Applicants would continue to have to provide an enhanced DBS check to reveal any previous criminal convictions, but a new arrangement would also see the council working with the Disclosure and Barring Service to be alerted if any crimes are committed during the licence period.

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The recommended policy also makes clear that all drivers will be required to take part in safeguarding and disability awareness training, to enable them to spot any concerns relating to their passengers’ wellbeing, and know how to report them.

The suggested policy makes clear that prospective hackney or private hire drivers must pass a knowledge test before a new application is accepted. This would ensure they all have a good understanding of the area, places of interest, English and arithmetic. They would also have to provide the district council with a satisfactory medical report during licence applications and renewals.

The district council’s Licensing Committee met yesterday and agreed to recommend this new policy is put forward to a full council meeting on February 22. There, a vote will take place to decide whether to adopt and implement the new policy from April.

Licensing Committee chair Councillor Alex Riley said: “We’ve taken the opportunity to review our licensing rules for taxis, and are looking to raise the bar that we set.

“Taxis are a really important way to get around rural areas like South Cambridgeshire, and relied upon by many people.

“Residents making a booking with a private hire operator, or flagging a hackney carriage down, need to be safe in the knowledge that they’re getting into a vehicle that is absolutely up to the job, driven by someone who is fit to do so.

“This new policy which we’ve recommended strengthens our guidelines around these areas, by further improving standards within the trade and clearly setting even higher expectations of conduct. The safety of South Cambridgeshire residents is paramount and this new, stricter policy further contributes to their wellbeing.

“Importantly, this new policy would also help disabled residents to hire a cab on the spot with the minimum of fuss. Taxis should be accessible for all, and this is one way we’re working on achieving this.”