Prospective taxi drivers in Leeds are to face stricter checks after “safeguarding concerns” were raised about the current process for handing out licences.
Applicants from outside the UK will have to provide more information before they pass the ‘fit and proper person’ test.
It follows the inquiries into the Rotherham grooming scandal, which found that taxis had been used to ferry children around for exploitation.
A report to Leeds City Council’s licensing committee said there was a “need to proceed quickly due to safeguarding concerns”.
The committee heard more than eight out of 10 Leeds taxi drivers come from Pakistan.
At the moment, decisions are often made on the basis of ‘certificates of good character’ from the applicant’s country of origin, which can be unreliable.
The report said: “Supporting references are generally vague with none or little meaningful information relevant to the responsibilities of the role applied for. It is often the case that the authors of such references have a personal, community or business interest in supplying a favourable reference.”
Under the new proposals, non-UK applicants may be asked to supply character references from a UK professional and a statutory declaration from a solicitor supporting the application as well as information on their criminal record in other countries.
Coun Brian Selby said: “If we don’t have a strong policy and something goes wrong, all hell will be let loose upon us.”
Des Broster, head of taxi licensing, said: “The purpose of this is to say public safety is paramount.”