Enforcement of taxi rules and regulations in Bristol and South Gloucestershire has received a boost as the area’s first “taxi cop” has begun work tackling cabbies and private hire drivers who operate illegally.
PC Patrick Quinton, an Avon and Somerset Police officer, will dedicate his time to working with the taxi trade and council licensing teams to tackle illegal practices. This new approach has been developed following concerns raised by trade representatives about the number of private hire vehicles picking up fares that are not pre-booked and “out of town” licensed hackney carriages plying for hire in the city.
Aside from illegal plying for trade PC Quinton’s role will also include enforcing licensing and regulatory conditions associated with the condition of vehicles, the use of taxi ranks, complaints received about customers, drivers and complaints of crime or abuse.
PC Quinton said: “My job is to ensure the safety of passengers, the public and taxi drivers and to help deliver an effective and quality transport system for Bristol and South Gloucestershire. I want to work with all hackney carriage and private hire vehicle drivers and operators to ensure residents and visitors receive an excellent service and to make sure they can operate in a competitive and fair industry. There will be no place for unlicensed drivers here, identifying and prosecuting them is a high priority for me. I would ask anyone with information about illegally operating drivers to let me know at Taxis@avonandsomerset.police.uk .
“I look forward to getting to know the drivers and I would ask them to come and say ‘hello’ when they see me out and about on my electric bike, motorbike or car.”
The introduction of a dedicated police officer to enforce taxi licensing and regulatory conditions has come after discussion between both councils, representatives of the trade and Stand Against Racism and Inequality (SARI). The trade representatives, through the city’s Taxi Forum and SARI’s Public Transport Community Safety Working Group, produced a list of issues they felt that needed addressing to allow a fair and competitive taxi trade to exist in Bristol. The City Council has been working with trade representatives, SARI, South Gloucestershire and the Police and have already addressed many of the concerns raised in the Taxi Forum.
Pat Jones, Chair of the Bristol Blue Taxi Association, said: “I’m really pleased to see PC Quinton begin his new role and get off to a real positive start working with the trade in Bristol. Working together with the local drivers I believe his role will help the trade develop and ensure a quality service for the city.”
The success of the Taxi Forum and discussions has also led to; a cap placed on granting further hackney carriage licenses, changes to conditions on replacing hackney carriages with new vehicles, the introduction of a dedicated licensing officer into the Citizen Service Point at 100 Temple Street, changes to licensing conditions to give drivers the opportunity to introduce all over advertising on hackney carriages and the city’s first Taxi Conference with a second scheduled for next year.
Alex Raikes MBE, Strategic Director of SARI said: “It is really exciting to see the Taxi Cop initiative become a reality for Bristol and South Gloucestershire. This was an innovative idea that trade reps we were working with told us was making a positive difference in Birmingham. When we shared this idea with council licensing teams and Avon and Somerset, they were keen and proactive about getting the Birmingham Taxi Cop to attend and showcase their work at Bristol’s first Taxi Conference in November 2016. It was then only a couple of months before this important project got off the ground.
“This comes as part of a wide range of new measures being instigated with and on behalf of Bristol’s Taxi Trade that will benefit all local residents using this critical form of public transport. SARI has been working hard to tackle the hate crime, general crime and abuse that taxi drivers face on a too frequent basis. We want local members of the public to treat taxi drivers with the respect they deserve for helping make sure we have smooth and safe transport across the region. Equally, we are keen to ensure that any rogue drivers who are not abiding by rules and regulations are tackled effectively as they impact on the reputation of all drivers and compromise the livelihoods of local trade too.”
Councillor Fi Hance, Cabinet Member for Regulatory Services, said: “We do know that the taxi trade face real challenges in the current market. Our role as a licensing authority is to work with the trade to ensure that where possible we’re meeting those challenges and enforcing the regulations that keep taxi drivers and the public safe. I’m really pleased to see the hard work put in by our licensing officers, South Gloucestershire Council, the police and the Taxi Forum have led to so many improved operating conditions for the trade. There is still work to do but with the introduction of PC Quinton to this role I am confident that together with the trade we can deliver a great service for Bristol.”
Cllr Heather Goddard, Cabinet Member for Communities and Tourism at South Gloucestershire Council, said: “We welcome the appointment of PC Quinton in this new role which is specifically designed to reinforce the rules and regulations involving taxi cabs and private hire vehicles. His job will help ensure public safety as well as protecting legitimate taxi drivers while they are earning a living. This scheme is a good example of the benefits that partnership working can bring.”
Dilawer Singh, Commeettee member of the Bristol Blue Taxi Association said: “The trade are pleased by the impact PC Quinton has already had on supporting drivers and passengers. There's still a lot of work to do but with the introduction of PC Quinton to this role I'm confident that together we can deliver a great service of Bristol. I’d like to thank SARI Director, Alex Raikes, for her contribution in enabling discussion with council licensing teams and other partners to consider the issues facing the trade in Bristol. There remain challenges to discuss which we will continue to work together on.”