Westminster Hall debate on the safety of women and the regulation of pedicabs in London - 16 November 2021

Councils play an important role, alongside police and other partners, in protecting their communities and assuring that they are safe places to live. A whole society approach, underpinned by a Government commitment to provide long-term funding to councils, is needed to give women and girls confidence that there is not just the will but also the power to improve things through cultural change.


Key messages

  • Councils play an important role, alongside police and other partners, in protecting their communities and assuring that they are safe places to live. This includes ensuring that everyone can enjoy public spaces and venues at night and is able to get home safely as we return to a vibrant night-time economy.
  • A whole society approach is needed to give women and girls confidence that there is not just the will but also the power to improve things through cultural change. This approach must be underpinned by a Government commitment to provide the appropriate long-term funding and support required to give councils the best possible chance of making real progress in our efforts to protect communities.
  • We welcome the Government’s new Safety of Women at Night Fund, which will finance a variety of new measures including a transport safety campaign and trained staff to support safe taxi journeys. Given the importance of this issue and the number of bids for funding, we are calling on the Government to increase the fund and extend it beyond March 2022.
  • Currently, pedicabs are exempt from the regulations which cover taxis and private hire vehicles. They do not need a licence to operate, are able to set their own prices and are not subject to checks on the safety and ability of their drivers, or the road worthiness of their vehicles. Councils have been made aware of various issues involving pedicabs, including unsafe driving, noise nuisance and pavement parking.  
  • Licensing is an important tool for councils to ensure anyone using a vehicle offering private transport services is kept safe. We believe that any vehicle, of any form or size including pedicabs, which operates by providing private transport services for the public, should require a licence and fall within the taxi/PHV regulatory framework in some capacity.
  • In 2018, the LGA funded the development of the National Register of Licence Revocations and Refusals (NR3), which is hosted by the National Anti-Fraud Network (NAFN). NAFN is a shared service which supports public authorities to tackle fraud and share intelligence. We support the objective of making use of this type of database under the Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles Bill, as well as the new licensing obligations under the Bill. If pedicab licensing is introduced, this should also fall within the scope of the database.
  • The LGA has consistently called for urgent reform to the outdated legislation that governs taxi and PHV licensing. Piecemeal changes to legislation in recent years have not kept pace with rapid advances in technology, such as pedicabs, which have changed the way transport operates in the 21st century.
  • We are urging the Department for Transport to bring forward a comprehensive Taxi and PHV Licensing Reform Bill to replace the current outdated legislation and make the licensing system for taxis and PHVs fit for the 21st century. This should cover the full range of safeguarding, market and enforcement issues that need addressing to the benefit of both passengers and the trade. 

Background information

Pedicab licensing

As things stand, pedicabs are exempt from the regulations which cover taxis and private hire vehicles. They do not need a licence to operate, are able to set their own prices and are not subject to any official checks on the safety and ability of their drivers, or the road worthiness of their vehicles. There have been many incidents of pedicabs causing road issues, noise nuisance and many other issues within the areas they operate.

Licensing is an important community safety tool for councils and the lack of effective regulation for pedicabs poses safeguarding risks, particularly to vulnerable groups using them. We believe that any vehicle, of any form or size including pedicabs, which operates by providing private transport services for the public, should require a licence and fall within the taxi/PHV regulatory framework in some capacity.

The LGA would support the use of the national register of licence revocations and refusals (NR3) for pedicab licensing, should this be introduced. NR3 is already widely used by licensing authorities and has proven effective in identifying applicants who are found to be not fit and proper.

The NR3 register

The LGA launched NR3 in 2018, and it is managed by the National Anti-Fraud Network (NAFN). NAFN is a shared service, hosted by Tameside council, which supports public authorities to tackle fraud and share intelligence. NAFN worked with the LGA and a user group of licensing officers from a range of local authorities to develop the NR3 register.

The simple objective of NR3 is to provide a mechanism for licensing authorities to record details of where a license has previously been refused or revoked. This allows licensing authorities to check new applicants against the register and make an informed decision on whether an applicant is fit and proper when making a licensing decision.

Before the introduction of NR3, there was no central database of drivers’ history of revocations and refusals, and local authorities had to rely on applicants to self-disclose this information. As a result, crucial intelligence could be missed, which could pose a potential risk to public safety.

Wider licensing concerns

The LGA has consistently called for urgent reform to the outdated legislation that governs taxi and PHV licensing. Piecemeal changes to legislation in recent years have not kept pace with rapid advances in technology, such as pedicabs, which have changed the way transport operates in the 21st century.

We are urging the Department for Transport to bring forward a comprehensive Taxi and PHV Licensing Reform Bill to replace the current outdated legislation and make the licensing system for taxis and PHVs fit for the 21st century. This should cover the full range of safeguarding, market and enforcement issues that need addressing to the benefit of both passengers and the trade. 

Women's safety

In our response to the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Strategy consultation earlier this year, we highlighted the importance of aligning VAWG strategy work with related current and upcoming legislation and guidance. The Domestic Abuse Act has recently received Royal Assent; the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is progressing through Parliament; the Government has just published its Beating Crime Plan; and a Draft Victims Bill and a separate Domestic Abuse Strategy are expected in the Autumn 2021.  All of these are linked to VAWG, and – while noting the importance of recognising that domestic abuse is not perpetrated against women alone - it is important that there is a co-ordinated holistic approach to tackling violence against women and girls that is embedded across all Government departments and relevant agencies in a coherent way.

In terms of this holistic approach, our work on the Domestic Abuse Act, for example, has highlighted the importance of sustainable funding for a range of critical services, including children and family services, to help drive the early intervention and preventative services that can help stop domestic abuse occurring in the first place.   Similarly, there is a need for early and sustained education focusing on healthy, loving relationships, and acceptable cultural practices and behaviours in an era of technology and social media. A holistic approach also means focusing on perpetrators, and not only through criminal justice measures. We are pleased that following our lobbying, the Government recognised the calls of the LGA and charities for a domestic abuse perpetrator strategy and committed to bring this forward as part of the forthcoming Domestic Abuse strategy.

A similar crosscutting is also needed in relation to the new VAWG strategy. A wider culture change is required, spanning education, health, housing, families, and communities through to policing and criminal justice measures, with prevention and early intervention the cornerstone of this approach.

VAWG Funding

A holistic approach must be underpinned by a commitment to provide the appropriate long-term funding and support required to give us the best possible chance of making real progress in our efforts to keep women and girls safe in our communities.

Councils have commended the Government for acknowledging the need to do more to address women and girl’s safety through the ‘Safety of Women at Night’ Fund, but the LGA has expressed disappointment that currently only £5 million has been allocated for this purpose. Additionally, we need to ensure that there is a shift from asking what safety precautions a women or girl can take to ensure their own safety, towards how can we disrupt and prevent a perpetrator’s abusive and violent behaviour.

We welcomed the Spending Review 2020 announcement of £125 million funding to help enable local authorities to deliver the new statutory duty to support domestic abuse victims and their children in safe accommodation in 2020-21, and it is helpful that the Domestic Abuse Commissioner will be undertaking a review and reporting on community based domestic abuse services. While we welcomed the 2021 spending review commitment to recruiting more Independent Sexual Violence and Domestic Violence Advocates and improving the prosecution rates in rape cases, it was disappointing that there was no further information about funding for the new duty beyond 2021.

It is clear that if society is to truly achieve significant reductions in violence against women and girls, as well as support victims, long-term funding for tackling domestic abuse and VAWG is key. That is why the LGA continues to urge the Government to revisit this area as a matter of urgency.