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Taxi driver drug tests move one step closer.

Byline: NICK TYRRELL Local Democracy Reporter @NCTYRRELL

PLANS to carry out drugs tests on Liverpool's taxi drivers have moved a step forward, after councillors approved the latest stage of the proposals.

Members of the council's licensing committee voted to begin a compulsory consultation on the new testing rules, which would affect both new and existing drivers.

The new rules would see randomised testing of current taxi drivers, as well as the potential for new applicants, or taxi drivers renewing their licence, to be requested to take a test if they have a conviction or caution for drug-related offences in the past three years.

There would also be so-called "intelligence-led" testing to allow the council to request a driver take a test if there are "credible reasons" to suspect a driver may use illegal drugs.

Members of the committee praised the move, but some said it would be necessary to push other boroughs to adopt the policy as well, because a large number of drivers licensing in other boroughs still operate in Liverpool.

Cllr Roy Gladden said: "The reason we are looking at a policy for this is because of the drug problems we have with some drivers.

"Under our system, there are drivers from other authorities driving in our area. I need something from this committee to go to the city region so we can keep raising this with other boroughs."

Taxi team leader Yvonne Willcock said she sat on a panel with representatives from other regions and said that they would follow Liverpool's plans closely, but that it would be up to them if they wanted to introduce a testing policy of their own.

Drivers requested to take the tests due to previous drug offences will have to pay for the test, but for those chosen at random or due to intelligence-led testing, the cost will be covered by the city council. The cost of each test is predicted to be around PS100.

Across Merseyside, police arrested 114 licensed drivers on suspicion of drug driving in the 12 months from May 1 last year to May 1 this year.

The council says that, while the number of arrests is relatively small, compared to the number of drivers overall, it is inevitable that there will be others who are driving under the influence of drugs and have not been detected.

The committee report states: "The City Manager is of the firm view that it is now necessary to put in place an appropriate and proportionate procedure which, so far as reasonably practicable, firstly prevents drug users from being granted licences in the first place or having them renewed and, secondly, detects those drivers who are currently licensed but who use drugs."

A representative from Alpha BioLabs, the company which will carry out the tests for the council, said their processes were designed to prevent any attempts to tamper with tests or allow people to provide false samples.

The tests, done via a urine sample, will test for 14 types of substances, whereas police roadside tests currently only assess levels of cocaine and cannabis.

Once consultation has taken place, the licensing committee will decide formally on bringing in testing.

Hackney cab fares set to rise A "SIGNIFICANT" taxi fare rise has been approved by St Helens Council, to bring hackney rates in line with the rest of the city region.

The hackney carriage trade was instructed to submit an annual rate rise request by councillors last September, in accordance with St Helens Council's statement of taxi licensing policy.

It had been intended that a rate rise committee would be established, although this never materialised.

Subsequently, the council's licensing team has worked with the two main consultative groups, Unite and SHAPTHD (St Helens Association of Private Hire and Taxi Drivers) to produce a jointly proposed rate rise.

The request as a percentage increase is approximately 10%.

This was distributed to the trade for ballot on June 17 and was agreed, with the trade considering the council's report from last year, which sought to align hackney carriage rates in St Helens with the charges made across the city region.

A new council report says St Helens has "historically and consistently" charged cheaper fees than the rest of the city region.
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 30, 2019
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