Bury Council brings in new rules for private hire and hackney drivers to improve standards, following complaints about a Eastern European driver
Bury Council has been forced to address standards following a bizarre incident involving a Eastern European driver. Following a series of serious complaint relating to one specific driver, a licensing officer went out with him in the car.
During the “white-knuckle ride” the licensing official witnessed the driver doing all sorts of things. The driver drove through red lights and went the wrong way around roundabouts all whilst failing to appreciate he was doing anything wrong.
As a result, new drivers who come from outside the European Union must now have their driving skills assessed and prove they have a good grasp of English and maths before becoming taxi or private hire drivers in Bury.
A senior source at the council said: “After the white-knuckle ride,” the driver had his licence suspended.
Bury Council’s licensing committee chairman, Cllr David Jones, said the council changed the rules to improve driving standards. At a meeting on June 9, the committee voted to ensure new black-cab and private-hire drivers provide evidence to the council that they have had a Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency driving assessment.
If they cannot produce documentary evidence that they have a GCSE in English and maths, or the equivalent qualifications, they must pass council tests in communication and numeracy.
A report to the committee said: “It is possible for the holder of a non-European Union licence who has not passed a test (in the European Union) to (become a taxi driver) without having to re-sit a driving test or to have their driving ability reassessed.
Cllr Jones, continued: “A number of individuals who have appeared before the committee have claimed they could not understand questions posed to them, or cannot communicate effectively in English to the extent that they have brought people with them to interpret on their behalf.
“Licensed drivers with poor communication skills are at a disadvantage when dealing with customers — particularly those (customers) under the influence of alcohol.”
The Hackney Drivers Association chairman Charles Oakes, who represents black-cab drivers in Bury, said: “I can understand why the council wants to keep standards high and why it is important for drivers to be able to drive at a good standard and to have a good grasp of English and maths.
“However, there is a risk that councils up and down the country are making drivers follow too many rules and regulations and we should be aware of that becoming an issue in future.”
Cllr Jones said the committee would monitor the implementation of the new rules to see whether it was necessary to look at introducing to them to existing taxi drivers too.
New code of conduct for taxi and private hire drivers
As part of the new changes Bury Council has also introduced a new code of conduct for drivers. Drivers are expected to maintain the highest professional and moral standards at all times. In particular, when driving a licensed Hackney Carriage /Private Hire Vehicle drivers must not engage with passengers in ‘inappropriate conversation’.
If a passenger complains that a driver have done so, it could well result in a Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Driver licence being revoked by the Council ‘With Immediate Effect’. The following are examples of what is considered to be inappropriate conversations / conduct.
- A driver asking a passenger if he/she is in a relationship or single or if he/she has a partner.
- A driver complimenting a passenger about his/her physical appearance.
- A driver engaging in a conversation with a passenger about sex, their sexual orientation, their sexual experiences or personal relationships.
- A driver asking a passenger for their telephone number for personal use or a driver who offers to provide a passenger with his/her personal phone number.
- A driver, whilst on duty, offering to meet a passenger at a later date/time for social purposes
- Under no circumstances should a driver deliberately touch or kiss a passenger.
- A passenger who wishes to sit in the rear of your vehicle should not be invited by you to sit beside you in the front of the vehicle.