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More criminal record checks for Newport taxi drivers in safety crackdown

Newport City Council Civic Centre (Pic: Google)

TAXI drivers in Newport will face more criminal record checks under new rules designed to improve safety.

Owners of taxi firms will also have to pass a “fit and proper test” and comply with Welsh rules on CCTV in vehicles if they are to continue trading in the city.

The measures form part of Newport City Council’s updated policy for taxi and private hire vehicles, with safety the key issue.

Drivers will have to provide the results of a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check every six months – either by signing up for an automatic update service or by applying for their own checks – which allow the authorities to view criminal records.

The council’s licensing team will have to carry out 3,000 checks each year, compared to the current 500 it performs annually.

A report noted this could “impact on [the] workload of the team” but will “enhance the authority’s ability to promote public safety”.

Taxi and private hire vehicle owners will be subject to annual DBS checks as well as the “fit and proper” requirements.

Some other planned reforms of the council’s taxi policy have been dropped or softened, however, following a “well-attended” meeting with members of the trade last September.

Generally, the council intends to only grant new licences for vehicles which meet the latest exhaust emission standards for new cars, Euro 6.

But attendees of the meeting raised concerns this could end up negatively affecting people with disabilities, by slashing the number of wheelchair-accessible taxis on the city’s roads.

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The number of accessible taxis in Newport has fallen by 45% in the past seven years, according to the council report.

Wheelchair accessible taxis will therefore be subject to a lower emissions threshold, Euro 4, in the council’s revised policy.

Taxi drivers were also successful in overturning a plan to legally require them to undertake a booking they had accepted “unless there is a good reason”.

The council said there had been increased reports of drivers cancelling jobs, “causing frustration and significant safeguarding concerns”.

But the council accepted drivers’ “strong opposition” to the plan, and noted complaints about cancellations “mainly featured around” one operator and had improved over time.

Councillor James Clarke, the cabinet member for regulation, is expected to sign off on the new taxi policy this week.