Havant taxi drivers could face one-to-one English assessment as part of new licensing changes
ASPIRING taxi drivers in Havant could see their grasp of the English language put to the test in new one-to-one interviews with licencing officers.
It comes as Havant Borough Council vows to change the way new drivers apply for private hire or Hackney carriage licences in the borough.
Currently, new applicants are allowed to bring someone else into their initial driver interview who may occasionally speak on their behalf.
But the new plan would see wannabe cabbies go it alone, to ensure their English and maths skills are good enough to meet customers' needs.
The council has also suggested raising licence prices for new drivers from £125 to £150 for one year, and from £137 to £210 for three years.
Darren Wearn, a manager at Havant-based taxi firm Andi Cars, said he was ‘all for’ the changes, which are due to be considered at full council.
He said: ‘You wouldn’t give someone who doesn’t speak English a job in an English call centre. This is the same thing.
‘At the moment there are too many drivers coming from the EU with too little English.
‘Yes, this is going to cost more, but there’s going to be more interrogation.
‘There are a lot of stories in the news about rogue taxi drivers lately and this should give customers 100 per cent confidence in their drivers' English and knowledge.’
Havant council’s licencing chief, councillor David Keast, said applicants' English would be assessed through conversation and writing.
However he admitted a formal English language test is still being considered by the council.
Hackney carriage driver Matt Cane, from Havant, said the proposal ‘should be applauded’ and cited concerns the application process had previously ‘not been stringent enough’.
‘At the moment in Havant we are flooded with vehicles,' he said.
‘Anything that will improve the quality of the drivers and control the number on the roads has to be a good thing for the industry as a whole.’
He added: ‘£210 is not a bad price for a new driver. Before the three-year licence was introduced I used to have to pay about £85 every year.’
If plans pass, the council would also increase the prices for licence renewal from £107 to £169 for three years and £95 to £145 for one year.
New charges would also be rolled out for a change of driver's address or name, a change of vehicle registration or a transfer of vehicle proprietor.
Cllr Keast said many of the changes, which would bring the council an additional £24,821, would be made to cover administrative costs.
On the proposed new procedure, councillor Narinder Bains, the council’s cabinet lead for neighbourhoods, safety and enforcement, said: ‘Drivers must be able to communicate with passengers to discuss a route, or fare, as well as reading and understanding important regulatory, safety and travel information.
‘We are clear that this is crucial to a driver’s role in transporting the public.’