A BLIND Trafford councillor has raised concerns over planned de-regulation of taxis which she believes could put passengers at serious risk.
Urmston Labour councillor, Catherine Hynes, was speaking after a debate was held at Trafford Council to discuss an opposition motion condemning government plans, which includes scrapping annual checks on licences and enabling people without minicab licences to drive them when the cab is deemed 'off duty'.
Cllr Hynes told Messenger: "As someone who cannot drive or use public transport I rely on taxis in order to function in the world with independence."
She said many people like herself depended on the regular use of cabs for their independence, which in her case included ferrying her children about.
She explained: "People who do this without a thought because they have trust and faith that that the local authority has vetted the driver and their vehicle and they believe it will be safer for them to travel."
She added: "Aside from those people who we might think of as being vulnerable, it is the case that most people become vulnerable when they get into a taxi with someone they don't know. And what I want is for the assurance of robust regulation to remain."
Cllr Mike Freeman, opposition spokesperson for licensing committee, said “The first duty of the council must be to public safety, especially to vulnerable residents who rely on a safe taxi service.
“The ‘taxi’ reforms within the De-regulation Bill will compromise public safety and local authorities will be powerless to prevent this happening.”
Meanwhile, Stretford and Urmston MP Kate Green said she wanted to make sure the current system of criminal and background checks on drivers and also who should drive them should remain.
She explained: “This, together with the increased numbers of out of town taxis in the borough, is a real threat to the safety of the most vulnerable people in our community.
“Many people, particularly women and those with impaired mobility, rely on taxis and mini-cabs to get home safely. I’m worried that these plans will increase the number of rogue drivers on Trafford’s roads.
“I’m calling on the government to abandon these proposals and put passenger safety first.”
Executive councillor for environment and operations, Cllr John Reilly, said: "The council has provided a considered response to the inserted taxi clauses in the Deregulation Bill, which could compromise public safety in relation to private hire vehicles.
"I also understand the current concerns of the taxi trade regarding out of area taxis; but the public can be assured that they are licensed by their home authority, even though they may not be to the high standard applied to a Trafford licensed vehicle.
"Proposed reforms to introduce a national minimum standard across the country are to be welcomed.
"I would recommend that residents insist on a Trafford licensed vehicle if they want a high standard."