The growing use of taxi apps, such as Uber and Gett, may leave passengers in Brighton and Hove exposed to greater risk, according to the council.
Local cabs adhere to higher safety standards than in some parts of the country but all that may be about to change.
Councillors were reminded about the crucial role played by taxi drivers in recent scandals where gangs of men sexually abused dozens of vulnerable girls. The most high-profile sex gangs were in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford.
Brighton and Hove City Council said today (Thursday 25 June): “The city council requires CCTV in all taxis and private hire vehicles as part of measures to protect passengers and drivers, enhanced police checks for drivers, high training standards for drivers and the provision of wheelchair-accessible vehicles.”
A report to the council’s Licensing Committee, which met at Friends Meeting House, in Ship Street, Brighton, this afternoon, noted that the Deregulation Act would mean changes to the law from October.
The changes may mean that app-based businesses such as Uber and Gett could soon be in use locally and cabs could be sent from outside the area where lower licensing standards applied.
Uber has been in contact with the council with a view to obtaining an operating licence but the changes to the law could mean that it won’t need a local licence.
A court case involving Uber and Transport for London could also make the situation clearer.
Some members of the Licensing Committee expressed concerns about public safety, child protection and the possibility that cabbies sticking to Brighton and Hove’s more stringent licensing conditions could be squeezed out by unfair competition.
One councillor asked why there were no local taxi apps to take on the likes of Uber. But there are at least two Brighton and Hove-based apps, with the City Cabs app being perhaps the best-known one. They are believed to account for a tiny percentage of overall bookings.
A big concern in the taxi trade is the financial effect of deregulation and the rise of Uber. The price of a taxi and licence could fall from more than £40,000 to under £20,000.