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Wolverhampton Council hands out 12,000 taxi licences – but most are not to city drivers

By Pete Madeley | Wolverhampton | Transport | Published:

Wolverhampton Council handed out nearly 12,000 taxi licences last year – but only a tiny amount of them were for drivers in the city.

The 11,811 private hire licences issued was by far the highest of any council in the country, breaking the Labour-run authority’s own record from the previous year.

However, according to a Freedom of Information request just 852 of them (seven per cent) went to drivers working in Wolverhampton.

It came as criticisms of the authority’s “cheap and easy” licensing system were raised after it emerged that a driver convicted of a sex attack on a passenger in Winchester had been licensed in Wolverhampton.

The figures show that a staggering 5,376 licences were awarded to Birmingham drivers, making up 45 per cent of all licences given out.

Since a change in the law in 2015, the private hire licensing process has been simplified in Wolverhampton, meaning drivers from all over the country have flocked to the city to pick up a cheap licence.

The North West has become a hotbed for Wolverhampton licences, with Manchester drivers taking 1,443 licences, Oldham (423), Bury (185), Blackburn (153), and Stockport (148).

And drivers from the East Midlands also made the journey over to Wolverhampton in vast numbers, with licences handed out to people from Nottingham (364), Leicester (356) and Derby (334).

Nearly 300 drivers from Shropshire came to the city for licences, including 190 from Telford and 100 from Shrewsbury.

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The Government has launched a consultation following widespread calls for a change in the law to stop drivers from getting a licence in one part of the country and operating in another.

Critics have raised concerns over passenger safety, with Tories in the city claiming the Labour-led council’s system is “finance driven” and too cheap and easy. Wolverhampton Council says its streamlined system has made it the “licensing authority of choice”.

Last month Ferham Khan, 33, was jailed for 12 years for sexually assaulting a woman he had picked up in Winchester in 2017.

Winchester City Council leader, Councillor Caroline Horrill, has written to Wolverhampton Council raising concerns around the implications of its licensing policy.

A Wolverhampton Council spokesman said: “As is the case with anyone seeking a licence with us, he underwent an enhanced DBS check at the time of his application and had no previous convictions. As soon as we received information from Hampshire police that they were investigating him on suspicion of a serious sexual assault, we immediately took him off the road.”

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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