By Alex Armitstead and Harry Douglas-Gratton
Complaints against taxis and private hire vehicles has increased by over 30% since 2016, according to a report heard by the Leeds City Council licensing committee on Tuesday.
The data, part of the annual licensing report, shows that in 2018 there were 755 complaints against the licensed trade.
This is in comparison to 658 in 2017 and 576 in 2016.
The committee heard that this increase could be a result of drivers coming from out of the city.
During the licensing meeting, Councillor Gerry Harper pointed out that there was an issue of “drivers who get their licenses from elsewhere” working in Leeds.
Cllr Harper, who represents the Little London and Woodhouse ward, elaborated on this, saying that the increase in complaints and suspensions could come from drivers not getting their license from the city.
“A lot of it’s to do with problems with private hire vehicles coming in from out of Leeds,” he said.
“To get a private hire license, you have to apply for licensing in Leeds.
“Some people are coming from outside Leeds because they fail the tests, so they go out to other areas where it’s not as difficult to get a license and then they’re coming back into the city.
“When they’re here, they’re not responsible to Leeds – they’re responsible to where they got their license from.”
Two taxi drivers who work in Leeds, but did not want to be named, added that they had been affected.
“It’s affecting our work as well. They’re coming from different cities in order to work from Leeds,” one said.
Another said: “the Ministry of Justice did some consultation, and they did amend a few taxi private hire laws. They tried to nationalise them to bring up the level of testing, but that was still below Leeds testing.”
“It’s very difficult to stop it,” Cllr Harper added.
“The only way to stop it is to get all the local authorities who issue licenses to work together with a code of conduct.
“There’s an organisation called West Yorkshire Trading Standards which all the local authorities are signed up to, and they could work through them to get an agreement from all the local authorities to issue the same taxi license, the same test.”
Driver behaviour made up almost half of all complaints, which includes conduct, standards of driving and discrimination.
Driver conduct, which is how drivers compose themselves and act around customers, saw the biggest increase, with a surge of almost 120% between 2016 and 2018.
Sex and race discrimination also saw an increase, with there being no recorded complaints for either in 2016, but 10 and 13 respectively in 2018.
Cllr Mary Harland, who chairs the licensing committee, said that the increase in complaints could also be explained by “the travelling public in Leeds” being “more aware of their ability to complain to the licensing authority if they have a problem.
“Drivers and operators are required to report serious complaints to the licensing authority, and would be in breach of their conditions if they failed to report such complaints to the council.”
Cllr Harper said that one way to prevent and address these incidents would be installing cameras.
“The one thing they could do, but it would cost money, is to put CCTV in all taxis.
“It gives the driver more protection against anyone attacking them. It also gives the person who is in the taxi the protection that they know if this company has cameras in the car they’re less likely to have any trouble.”
On the bright side, environmental complaints were down from two years ago, with 0 reports of drivers littering last year in contrast to 11 in 2016.