Middlesbrough Council ordered to apologise twice for failures in its taxi licensing systems
Middlesbrough Council has been ordered by the Local Government Ombudsman to apologise twice to Boro Taxis for failures in the way it administers taxi licensing functions.
The council has been admonished for failing to:
- ‘Keep adequate records’ as it cannot demonstrate how it calculates its taxi licensing fees.
- Give Boro Taxis information about vehicle and driver licences suspensions, expiry and renewals dates, which it needs to run efficiently as a private hire operator.
Christine Bell, Boro Taxis’ Company Secretary, forwarded her complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman after Middlesbrough Council stated no further action was required when she initially lodged the complaints with it.
Following a Freedom of Information request, Ms Bell discovered that the council could not demonstrate how it calculated its taxi licensing fees because they were based on historic data that the council no longer held.
As a result of Ms Bell’s complaint to the Ombudsman, Middlesbrough Council has now agreed to review its taxi licensing fees and consult with the trade on the issue.
Dr Jane Martin, the Local Government Ombudsman describes Ms Bell as being ‘understandably concerned’ that she and other members of the taxi trade may be paying too much for their taxi licences because the Council cannot show how it calculated its fees due to its ‘poor record keeping’.
The Ombudsman ruled: “The Council will conduct a review of its fees and apologise to ‘Mrs C’.”
Her report says: “The key point is the Council cannot show the fees are appropriate to cover the cost of performing the service as it cannot show how it calculated the fees. The Council is at fault for not keeping adequate records.”
Ms Bell said: “Local authorities have a duty to local residents and businesses to conduct their operations in a fair, accountable and transparent way and Middlesbrough Council has failed to do this.
“Its poor handling of my legitimate concerns is appalling and as I could get no satisfaction from the Council, I had no alternative but to take my complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.
“This ruling entirely vindicates my stance and I hope that the Ombudsman’s intervention will lead to the Council adhering to its taxi licensing obligations in future.”
The second complaint centred on the council deciding to no longer respond to monthly requests from Boro Taxis to establish if its drivers and vehicle owners had renewed their licences.
The Ombudsman ruled that the council’s practices with regard to licence renewal and updating a register of private hire driver details were ‘ineffective.’
The council has now changed it procedures to ensure the register is updated more regularly and has given assurances that information about driver suspensions will be passed on to operators where relevant. The council has also changed its working practices to ensure that all necessary paperwork is issued at the correct time.
The Ombudsman’s report said: “The council will apologise to ‘Ms C’ for her anxiety and frustration because it did not advise on options to get the information she wanted, and did not always tell her when drivers were suspended. Also for her time and trouble in having to complaint, the council should send ‘Ms C’ an apology within one month of this decision. The council should ensure to maintain the register at least monthly.”
Ms Bell said: “Public safety is of paramount importance to Boro Taxis and these monthly checks are vital to helping us uphold the highest standards of customer care.
“While the Ombudsman commends the Council for acknowledging failings in its practices and taking steps to improve its service, it is evident that an official complaint about my company’s inability to access both vehicle and driver licence information had to be lodged with the Ombudsman before the council took action.”
NEWS RELEASE: ISSUED ON BEHALF OF BORO TAXIS
CONTACT: Helen Logan on 01325 363436
Notes to Editors:
Boro Taxis was founded by Mohammed Bashir in 1982 with three cars.
Today the company has a fleet of about 750 vehicles, provides employment for almost 900 people in Tees Valley and handles between 70,000 and 80,000 jobs per week.
All of Boro Taxis’ private hire drivers are licensed with the relevant Licensing Authorities undergo National Vocational Qualification 2 training in Road Passenger Vehicle Driving.