The long-running issue of cross-border drivers came up again in the Birmingham City Council chamber this week during question time.
Councillor Paul Tilsley told Councillor Barbara Dring, who is chairman of the Licensing and Public Protection Committee,: “Will she join with me in asking all of Birmingham residents, that in the future when they order a private hire to ask the operator to ensure it is a Birmingham licensed private hire cab that will turn up.
“They should boycott those licensed by any other authority.”
He had prefaced the argument by telling the chamber he was behind five private hire vehicles in Birmingham recently, four of which had been licensed by the Black Country authority.
Wolverhampton Council has been at the centre of a row between councils and taxi drivers for months over its licensing policy which is cheaper, quicker and arguably easier than other areas – although they have vehemently defended the latter point declaring their standards are among the highest in the country.
They raked in £2.2m from licensing last year.
In four years the number of private hire drivers the council has granted applications to has increased from fewer than 900 to more than 10,000.
A loophole in the Deregulation Act 2015 means drivers can get licensed by one council and operate in other areas.
But Birmingham drivers say they are suffering from outside operators taking their trade.
While the city council says there is a public safety issue because it has no enforcement powers over drivers licensed elsewhere.
In response, Councillor Dring told the chamber she had written to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, on behalf of all West Midlands councils including Wolverhampton, demanding that the Deregulation Act be changed.
It comes after a government task and finish group has published a raft of proposed measures around taxi licensing in recent weeks.
Key recommendations include limiting drivers to the area(s) they are licensed in and granting councils enforcement powers towards any driver in their area.
Upon debating the idea last month Councillor Dring told her committee that Wolverhampton was on board with the proposals.
The council itself issued a statement saying it looked forward to working with neighbouring authorities ‘much more closely on the issue of taxi licensing’.
By Carl Jackson
Local Democracy Reporter