A LOCAL authority looks set to close loopholes and tighten up checks on taxi drivers to improve passenger safety, but a move to make CCTV inside taxis mandatory appears to have been ruled out.

A Darlington Borough Council meeting heard the authority was aiming to launch a new regime to cover the area’s 278 licensed hackney carriage and private drivers, including more frequent criminal record checks and an increase in the number of years an applicant must remain conviction-free before their application is be accepted.

Under the proposed policy, those convicted of drug or violent offences would see the length of time doubled to ten years before they could apply for a licence.

In addition, the proposed changes would also see drivers prevented from using a loophole to avoid being placed on a national register of banned cabbies by stopping them returning their licences whilst an active investigation is being carried out.

The meeting heard the authority had also considered making all taxi drivers have CCTV inside their vehicles, following taxi drivers being involved in child sexual exploitation scandals in Rochdale and Rotherham.

CCTV is already fitted in many taxis, but is only mandatory under a small number of licensing authorities in the UK.

The council’s licensing manager, Colin Dobson said CCTV inside taxis had been recommended in new national standards and the council “strongly recommended” taxis installed them.

He said: “We have conducted our own search in Darlington and don’t believe it needs to be mandated. We think we have got sufficient safeguards at the moment and it is something that can be revisited as and when the issue arises.”

Mr Dobson said the council had “very close links” with Durham Constabulary’s safeguarding team, so with a good flow of information between the bodies safeguarding issues in the borough were dealt with as they arose, lessening the need for in-car cameras.

He added: “In the past some other local authorities have had very poor relations and that has resulted in very poor information sharing.”

Councillor Matthew Snedker said cameras fitted to the outside of taxis had improved security for drivers.

He added: “I would like to see the uptake of CCTV in cabs as widely accepted as that outside as that will provide greater reassurance to the public using taxis.”

Referring to the council’s proposal to review making CCTV mandatory when the issue arose, he added: “It seems we are setting ourselves up to close some stable doors are horses have bolted. We don’t know that we haven’t got a safeguarding issue. That’s what a lot of places say.”

Mr Dobson replied: “I’m not suggesting Darlington hasn’t got any safeguarding issues. We are working on the information we receive and how well we work with other agencies in Darlington.”