CRAVEN will become the first area in North Yorkshire to mandate CCTV cameras in taxis when the new rules come into force on 1 January.

The start date was agreed by members of Craven District Council’s licensing committee last night after a petition from taxi drivers who asked for a delay due to the financial impacts of Covid and costs of installing cameras.

Drivers also asked if the council could set up a hardship fund for those unable to afford the equipment which costs around £500, but this was refused.

Instead, drivers will be offered a temporary exception to the rules if they can show they are suffering from “financial hardship”.

Councillor Simon Myers, deputy leader of the council and chairman of the licensing committee, told a meeting last night that the authority “didn’t want to delay this any further” as he also urged drivers to apply for government grants if they can not afford the cameras.

He said: “Every taxi driver in Craven is eligible for a bounce back loan. That is at far cheaper rates than this council could do and is hugely affordable.

“I have told the taxi trade that and I will say it again.

“These grants are a much better avenue than asking the council to set up something it has never done before – some loan scheme – and charge interest rates.”

The CCTV rules were first made a policy by the council in 2018, but there has since been delays in bringing this forward.

The aim is to improve passenger safety and cut complaints against drivers which have recently included “dangerous driving” and “verbal and threatening behaviour”, a council report said.

Speaking at last night’s meeting, councillor David Ireton said safety on the roads and inside taxis was a more important issue than the costs of cameras.

He said: “It is alright to keep kicking this policy down the road and say we will do it when the taxi drivers can afford it, but I don’t think that is the answer.

“We are here to protect the public and drivers – and CCTV cameras are a vital tool in the tool box to do this.”

Also at last night’s meeting, new rules on enhanced criminal record checks for taxi drivers were agreed by councillors.

These rules are being imposed on all councils by the Department for Transport which earlier this year published its new Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards.

Currently, councils are “encouraged” to check criminal records, but the new proposals go further saying the enhanced criminal checks “should” be carried out on drivers applying for licences.

Those with specific previous convictions will also face tougher bans.