NR3 has a simple objective of providing a mechanism for licensing authorities to record details of where a taxi or PHV drivers licence has been revoked, or an application for one refused.
Challenge and context
There is a long-standing issue in taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) licensing whereby individuals who have had their taxi/PHV licence revoked or an application for one refused, for example for serious safeguarding or driving offenses, can simply apply for a licence with other licensing authorities. Luton Borough Council has experienced this issue, as have most licensing authorities in the country. It is a key cause of concern for licensing authorities as it can put users of taxi/PHV services, particularly the most vulnerable, at risk and damage the reputation of local government when individuals previously found not to be fit and proper to drive taxis/ PHVs are able to licence-shop due to faults in the legislative system.
To tackle this, the LGA launched the National Register of Licence Revocations and Refusals (NR3) in 2018. NR3 has a simple objective of providing a mechanism for licensing authorities to record details of where a taxi or PHV drivers licence has been revoked, or an application for one refused. This allows licensing authorities to check new applicants for taxi and PHV licences against the register and make an informed decision on whether an applicant is fit and proper based on any previous licensing history. This is a significant improvement as before the introduction of NR3, there was no central database of revocations and refusals, and authorities had to rely on applicants to self-disclose this information which, naturally, most of them did not.
What we did
Luton has supported the NR3 since its inception. We were on the implementation group of NR3 and helped to improve the database whilst it was being developed. We were also one of the first authorities to adopt NR3 into its licensing policy. The Administration and Regulation Committee had clear objectives of promoting the safety of the public and ensuring the provision and maintenance of a professional and respected hackney carriage and private hire trade and we saw adopting NR3 as an effective way to do this.
The difference we made
The benefits of using NR3 have been significant. Prior to NR3, if we had any concerns about an applicant we had to contact other authorities to run checks, which was a time-consuming process. Moreover, the growth in popularity of app-based operators such as Uber has significantly altered the taxi and PHV licensing landscape, as a driver could be licenced anywhere in the country and operating in a different area. Without NR3 it would be extremely difficult to obtain and check information on applicants.
NR3 is also delivering results. When checking the database to inform a decision of whether to grant a dual driver’s licence to a recent applicant, NR3 highlighted that the applicant had their licence revoked in another area due to safeguarding concerns. The applicant had not disclosed this information on their application. This information assisted us with our decision to refuse this applicant’s request for a licence.
Officers using the system find it easy to use and worth the small amount of time it takes to run checks. Luton council was already a National Anti-Fraud Network (NAFN) member - a shared service hosted by Tameside council which manages the register - which meant we were able to access NR3 at no extra cost.
Luton Borough Council will continue to champion the use of NR3. We have been involved in efforts to encourage surrounding authorities to use NR3 to further strengthen the system. This has been done through raising awareness of NR3 in regional meetings and providing advice to authorities on how best to use NR3