Residents in Milton Keynes have been urged to insist on taxi drivers who are licensed in the city to stop an influx of private hire vehicles from across the border in Aylesbury Vale.
Councillors want to see action taken to stop so many drivers coming across the border who then go on to illegally ply for trade, who do not know the roads, whose vehicles need repairs, and who can barely speak English.
Cllr Vanessa McPake told Wednesday’s full council that the “standards of licensing are lower in Aylesbury”.
She said that this meant: “We now have drivers licensed in Aylesbury whose standard of English is poor and who do not know our roads. We need to review the situation again to see what we can do to improve things.”
And Cllr Keith McLean, who uses MK Central station to commute, said there were problems in Station Square where “there is little control on the fact that drivers do tend to disobey traffic signs.”
Cllr Catriona Morris, who chairs the Licensing Committee, said the issue is “the bane of our lives” but that the vehicles are ‘perfectly legally allowed to come here’.
She revealed that three Buckinghamshire MPs, and one from MK, have written to the taxi licensing authority, Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC), to talk about concerns about their policies and procedures.
Cllr Morris added: “We are still pushing at that and they are improving.”
She added that there was ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ because the government is reviewing regulations that say a journey must begin or end in the area where a car is licensed.
“Fingers crossed,” she said.
Cllr Morris revealed that the council has two enforcement officers on almost permanent duty at Station Square.
“They get upset when you say to them that they have to go to Aylesbury to have their vehicles tested. Most of them have never been to Aylesbury, despite that’s where there licence is. The numbers are growing dramatically.”
And she added: “When they are taken to court for illegally plying for trade, it is as if Aylesbury is a foreign place to them because they have not previously been to Aylesbury.”
Cllr Morris suggested one way of putting pressure on the companies that use drivers from outside the city is for residents to book cabs that are licensed in Milton Keynes.
She said: “If we can urge our residents in MK when they book taxis to ask for a licensed MK one. If the companies notice that nobody wants an Aylesbury one, they will say that they will have to start employing more MK drivers.”
Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC) says it has been in regular contact with officers and elected members in Milton Keynes concerning the licensing of taxi drivers and vehicles.
After the meeting Peter Brown, the AVDC regulatory services manager, said: “We acknowledge and understand that many local authorities are frustrated by the consequences of the Deregulation Act, and indeed that this has had the effect of a decline in licensing revenue for some authorities and an increase for others.
“We agree that the number of drivers and vehicles licensed by Aylesbury Vale has grown since the Deregulation Act, but the circumstances driving this are complex and varied, including service standards and available application channels.
“It should also be noted that the Deregulation Act was specifically intended to promote competition, and the vast majority of those drivers licensed by AVDC, but operating in Milton Keynes are doing so lawfully.
“Aylesbury Vale’s licensing framework has always been and continues to be either in line with or in excess of standards set by the Department for Transport.
“Notwithstanding this, we have very recently implemented a number of enhancements to our licensing regime, which includes a formalised English language test (with a higher standard than Transport for London) and additional knowledge/navigation testing for drivers.
“Where complaints are received about existing drivers, we are also able to apply these additional checks. Further, we have also recently launched mandatory safeguarding training for all drivers, with a large number already having completed this exercise.
“In addition, enhanced vehicle checks (in excess of MOT standards) will be implemented during April 2019 and we continue to deliver a regular and proactive enforcement programme, which achieves effective and random spot checking of both vehicle and driver standards (including plying for hire).
AVDC has an excellent track record of enforcing breaches of licensing standards through the courts and we continue to undertake joint enforcement activity with Milton Keynes Council, which is supplemented by joint enforcement protocols.”