In November last year we identified some concerns about the way in which our taxi licensing service was operating. We immediately started to address these issues and at the same time asked that an independent external review of the service be carried out to give us further reassurance.
The review has now been concluded and a report of its findings has now been published following consideration this morning by a task group of our Scrutiny Committee. The report is also due to be presented to our next full council meeting.
We have accepted fully all the recommendations from the independent review. These covered improving taxi licensing administrative arrangements, complaint investigatory procedures and awareness of our safeguarding arrangements amongst both officers and councillors. We have been proactive throughout the course of this review to ensure that the necessary changes are made to our taxi licensing service. The report published today acknowledges that we are on course to address all the recommendations in the report, having implemented the majority of them already.
Leader of the Council, Councillor Margaret Smith said: “The council welcomes this independent report today. We fully accept its recommendations and are on course to implement them all.
“Nothing matters more to this council than the safety of our residents – in particular that of our children and young people. The public rightly expects our Licensing Service to provide them with the right level of protection and we regret any instances where we have fallen short of the mark.
“This council operates in an open and transparent way. That is why, as soon as concerns were raised about our Licensing Service, we acted swiftly and commissioned this external report by an independent firm of solicitors.
“However, we didn’t sit back and wait for the outcome of that review. Over the last six months the council has been active in responding to any concerns. We made improvements as soon as the issues were raised, and as a result the final report has not seen the need for any further recommendations.
“This council is dedicated to having a Licensing Service that is the very best it can be and we have developed an action plan to ensure this happens.
“We have checked and double-checked the licence of every single taxi driver licensed by South Ribble Borough Council. We have given refresher training to all employees and members of the Licensing Committee in safeguarding children. We will also be rolling out a programme for all councillors, as well as undertaking training for the taxi trade itself.
“We have excellent working relationships with the Police and Crime Commissioner, the Lancashire Safeguarding Children Board and other councils across Lancashire. We thank them for their invaluable support over the last few months and look forward to continuing to work closely with them as we bring in a robust licensing policy.
“The council has also asked that the safeguarding board undertakes a full audit of all our policies and procedures. This is a voluntary audit which we have requested to ensure we are as effective as possible.
“Our residents should be reassured that this council will continue to work tirelessly to make sure our Licensing Service is absolutely spot on and that we are doing everything within our power to keep them safe.”