Limo, party bus and rickshaw drivers criminal records checks urged
Drivers of limousines, party buses and rickshaws should be subjected to universal criminal records checks to combat safety fears, councils say.
The Local Government Association (LGA) warns that current legislation is "confusing" and "utterly outdated" for speciality and novelty vehicles.
It is calling for such vehicles and their drivers to come under the same scrutiny as London Black Cabs, which are vetted for safety and criminal records.
This would involve bringing all vehicles such as limousines, party buses and rickshaws under a single licensing scheme.
The move would also allow councils to ban rip-off operators and tackle concerns that some rickshaws in the capital are unsafe because they are not regulated and inspected, the LGA say.
Last month, a rickshaw driver was caught on camera apparently trying to charge tourists £206 for a mile-long trip from Oxford Circus to Marble Arch.
Cllr Tony Page, Licensing spokesman for LGA, said: "Party limousines, party buses and rickshaws are growing in popularity and it is imperative drivers and vehicles come under the same rigorous scrutiny as licensed taxis.
"Currently, there is a haze of regulations, which are not helping anyone: the passengers, drivers and operators. The legislation is confusing and utterly outdated.
"There needs to be a consistent and fair approach towards vehicle licensing. While there are many reputable firms, it is vital a few rogue operators do not drag down the sector. People need safety in the first instance but they also need to be clear on where to complain to and who is accountable."
Taxis, including some novelty vehicles, are governed by laws which pre-date the internal combustion engine, which was developed in the 19th century, the LGA say.
These laws include the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 and the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
Black cabs come under the London Cab Order 1934, while the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 applies to minicabs.
The organisation is calling for the laws to be updated to ensure the taxi and private hire vehicle licensing regime is "fit for the 21st century".
It says any legislation should be based on the Law Commission's draft bill published last year, which called for an overhaul.
Rickshaws operate legally but are unregulated in London.
The London Pedicap Operators Association (LPOA) works with Transport for London, the Mayor's Office and the Metropolitan Police to draw up standards for operators and drivers.
Such standards include fully maintained pedicabs with LPOA registration plates, third party public liability insurance, photo identification and drivers trained to the National Cycling Standards Level 3.
A spokesman for the LPOA said: " The pedicab industry has been operating in London since 1998 and has added vibrancy and colour to the streets of London, providing an emission-free transport option for visitors and Londoners alike.
"However, due to the inertia of the authorities, elements of the industry operate to the 'lowest common denominator', which is highly undesirable for all concerned.
"The LPOA has, for well over a decade, been lobbying parliament and has worked with Transport for London (TfL) and Westminster City Council (WCC) throughout this time, in order to achieve a fair and appropriate licensing regime for pedicabs.
"However, for reasons that we do not understand TfL, WCC and The Mayor's Office ceased to engage some time ago."
He said the LPOA had developed codes of conduct and practise for both operators and riders together with software to provide accountability for responsible operators in London.
This would provide full details about each rider, pedicab and operator subscribing to the scheme in the capital to "facilitate enforcement", he said.
"The taxi industry has frustrated each and every attempt to resolve any issues that prevail, through political pressure," he added.
"In summary, the LPOA remains willing to work with the authorities to bring the entire industry into line, thus ensuring the safety of passengers and the public."
A spokesperson for the Mayor of London said: " The Mayor has serious concerns about the pedicab trade and is lobbying the Government for new legislation that would give Transport for London powers to regulate them, powers they don't legally possess at the moment."