New Taxi drivers in County Durham won’t need to prove their knowledge of the local area before starting as part of proposed new licensing laws. 

Durham County Council’s General Licensing and Registration Committee (GLRC) recently agreed to remove the requirement for hackney carriage and private hire driver licence applicants to have to sit a locality test as part of the application process. 

The prevalence of sat navs and smartphones have been cited as reasons behind the decision, however the authority insists all applicants will still be “properly vetted” before licences are granted.  

The changes, which are set to be approved at full council later this year, open the door for more drivers from outside the region to get work in the area. 

It is the first major change to the policy since 2018, with the authority vowing to review it every five years. Several public consultations were carried out to help shape the decision. 

But the changes haven’t been warmly received by local drivers. Thomas Philip Young, who works in Chester-le-Street, said: “Anybody with a pulse, a clean DBS check will just be able to come and away they go. I’ve looked at the criteria to get a licence and it’s pretty elementary.

“The council won’t be able to have any control over the amount of taxis, which means that those already here will struggle to make a living because the market will be too saturated. It’s a worrying situation and really puts the public’s safety at risk.” 

Read next: 

Owen Cleugh, Durham County Council’s public protection manager, said: “The proposed policy has been subject to two public consultation exercises. The responses received were carefully considered before members of the GLRC decided to remove topographical testing from the application process for both hackney carriage and private hire drivers.

“Members agreed that with the widespread availability of sat navs and smartphones, there is less need for taxi drivers to demonstrate their own personal knowledge of the area in which they are licensed.

"If the proposals are agreed when they go to full council later in the year, all applicants will continue to be properly vetted and all necessary checks will take place to ensure they are a fit and a proper person before they are granted a licence.”