AS a result of the child sexual exploitation scandal, local authorities in South Yorkshire – and Rotherham in particular – have had to put in place even more stringent safeguards, not least on the issuing of licences to taxi and private hire drivers who are now expected to have a clean criminal record and speak fluent English.
What is worrying, however, is that these strict protocols do not apply to drivers licensed in other parts of the country. In Sheffield alone, there are more than 700 drivers who are registered with town halls elsewhere, including 414 with the Lancashire council of Rossendale according to a recent investigation.
Even though the number of ‘rogue’ operators represents a tiny fraction of the number of taxi drivers operating on the region’s roads, the prevalence of CSE means that any loopholes need to be closed immediately.
As Sheffield MP Clive Betts, chairman of Parliament’s Communities and Local Government Committee, says: “Children and vulnerable adults will remain at risk in Rotherham for as long as the local authority’s tough new licensing rules can be undermined by taxis from other areas.” The answer is simple – the strict rules applied in South Yorkshire must now be implemented nationally without delay. CSE abuse victims scarred for life – and all those drivers who do conform to the highest standards of integrity – deserve nothing less.