LGA calls for uniform licensing regime for novelty vehicles

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Traffic Commissioners welcome prospect of a single framework to bring limousines and novelty vehicles within private hire legislation

The introduction of a single consolidated legislative framework to bring limousines and novelty vehicles within private hire legislation would therefore be welcomed by the Traffic Commissioners (TC). The news comes after the Local Government Association (LGA) is called for uniform licensing controls to be introduced for limousines, party buses and rickshaws – including universal criminal record checks on drivers.

It wants these vehicles and their drivers to come under the same scrutiny as London Black Cabs, which are strictly vetted for safety and criminal records. This would involve bringing all specialty and novelty vehicles under a single licensing scheme.

The move would also allow councils to ban rip-off operators – such as the rickshaw driver who was recently caught on camera apparently trying to fleece tourists of £206 for just a three-minute trip in London. There are also concerns some rickshaws in the capital are unsafe because they are currently not regulated and inspected.

Taxis, including some novelty vehicles, are governed by laws which pre-date the internal combustion engine – which was developed in the 19th century. This is why the LGA wants these laws to be updated to ensure the taxi and private hire vehicle licensing regime is fit for the 21st century. It should be based on the Law Commission’s draft bill published last year, which called for a complete overhaul.

Cllr Tony Page, LGA licensing spokesman, said: “Party limousines, party buses and rickshaws are growing in popularity and it is imperative drivers and vehicles come under the same rigorous scrutiny as licensed taxis.

“Currently, there is a haze of regulations, which are not helping anyone: the passengers, drivers and operators. The legislation is confusing and utterly outdated. There needs to be a consistent and fair approach towards vehicle licensing. While there are many reputable firms, it is vital a few rogue operators do not drag down the sector. People need safety in the first instance but they also need to be clear on where to complain to and who is accountable.”

Speaking on behalf of the TCs as a licensing authority, Nick Jones, the Lead TC on limousines and novelty vehicles told CBW: “The Law Commission’s recommendations are a matter for Government to consider with regards to implementation but the TCs very much welcome the Commission’s recommendation that passenger carrying vehicles of up to 16 passenger seats, which carry passengers for hire and reward, be licensed by local authorities and not TCs.

“A growing number of restricted operators, including those running limousine and novelty vehicles, fall way below the minimum standards currently in place and frequently pay no attention to the basic principles of the operator licensing regime. My colleagues and I are working hard to root out these operators as the travelling public are very much at risk.

“There are currently two separate licensing regimes – local authorities and TCs – with entirely different legislative frameworks. This is frequently the cause of the many problems the licensing bodies and industry face. The introduction of a single consolidated legislative

framework to bring limousines and novelty vehicles within private hire legislation would therefore be welcomed by TCs.”

Reacting to the news, Martin Allen of the Bus and Coach Association told CBW: “I see no problem with old style buses being used for weddings etc. Regarding limo situation, over the years this as been tightened up. However, I don’t agree with party buses. The current situation is ridiculous – I have seen them first hand. It should be made law that the consumption of alcohol on any kind of public transport be unlawful. Rickshaws should be stopped because of the dangers involved.”

CPT said the operators of these vehicles do not fall within the trade body’s remit, adding:

“CPT represents the interests of bus and coach operators who are ‘O-licence holders running vehicles with nine seats or more. These operators have to comply with the standard PSV regulations. However, CPT supports measures aimed at making road passenger transport safer and the rules and regulations that govern them clearer.”