New taxi decision in spotlight
Concerns have been raised that it comes after a scandal at the council where licences were given without relevant checks and to people with criminal records.
In this case it was claimed the male hackney carriage driver made inappropriate comments about an autistic child passenger while carrying out a school run under a Lancashire County Council (LCC) contract. It has also emerged he accepted a caution for harassment several years ago.
South Ribble - the licensing authortiy - notified LCC, who suspended the man from their school run service while investigating. They claim they are prepared to reinstate the licence as long as the man attends a recognised autism awareness course and satisfies officers of this.
But South Ribble Council’s General Licensing Committee approved his reinstatement for general journeys without needing the proof he has attended. They say this is because journeys would need to be booked and his employers would known not to put him on school run before LCC’s permission was granted.
They also say his police caution was unrelated and falls outside the parameters of the taxi licensing policies.
Tweeting after the meeting, Coun Warren Bennett wrote: “Not sure what more disheartening, seeing a committee make the decision it did tonight or sadly not being surprised.”
Other councillors have also raised concerns at the decision.
A spokesman for South Ribble said they couldn’t legally comment on the case but assured residents it had been investigated “thoroughly and extensively”. They said all safeguarding procedures were “robustly adhered to” and the family concerned were happy with how the complaint had been handled.
They said: “All the details of the case were presented to a cross-party panel of trained councillors who reviewed the evidence and voted unanimously to retain his licence.
“We have made recommendations to LCC that all drivers on their school contracts undergo additional training if they are transporting children with additional needs and are absolutely committed to ensuring safeguarding is a top priority for the council.”
Councillor Matthew Tomlinson, LCC’s cabinet member for Children, Young People and Schools, as well as Leyland councillor for South Ribble, said: “I’m pleased LCC have acted swiftly and appropriately. I think what people really need now is for the two councils to work together in a consistent way.”