Taxis entering and leaving Sunderland set to face increased checks under new rules
Taxi drivers coming in and out of Sunderland could face increased checks under new plans backed by council bosses.
Sunderland City Council’s cabinet has agreed to sign-up to a North East taxi licensing agreement, which involves the region’s 11 other councils, aiming to keep passengers safe and boost regulation of the trade.
It follows concerns about increasing numbers of taxis licensed by other councils operating in their areas.
These ‘out-of-area’ vehicles are not subject to the regulations of the council they’re working in.
Under the new agreement, private hire and hackney carriages licensed in other council areas would face inspections when entering Sunderland.
Coun Amy Wilson, the council’s cabinet member for Environment and Transport said the agreement would allow effective regulation of the taxi trade in Sunderland and throughout the region.
She added: “The primary aim of the licensing of taxi drivers, vehicles and operators is to protect the public and promote safety.”
Coun Wilson said a review is being undertaken to consider any emerging new responsibilities and potential improvements.
The first part of the review would authorise the need for “cross-border enforcement officers.”
As of May 2019, there were 347 Hackney Carriages in Sunderland, 443 Private Hire vehicles and 1,165 drivers.
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Council licensing bosses are set to work with Sunderland drivers raise awareness of the changes – as they may face inspections while working in other local authority areas.
The council’s own review includes mandatory safeguarding training and further checks to establish if a driver is a ‘fit and proper person’.
Cabinet member for Communities and Culture, Coun John Kelly, also welcomed the plans.
“As a former taxi driver this is long overdue,” he said. “We have really good taxi companies in Sunderland, I’m proud to say that I think we do stick to the law.
“But it does not hurt to have the tools to do the job.”
The changes have also been welcomed by Sunderland’s Conservative opposition group on the council.
But group leader, Coun Robert Oliver, speaking after the meeting, said the new powers “need to be enforced on a regular basis and questions remain about how this will affect drivers who use Uber.
The plans will go to full council for a final vote.