New English language tests for licensed Mid Sussex taxi drivers could be introduced as part of proposals being considered by the district council.
The change to the conditions for taxi and private hire drivers aim to ‘ensure they are able to communicate effectively with their customers in spoken English’.
If approved by the Scrutiny Committee for Leisure and Community, a consultation would be held on proposals until April, and they would then come back to Mid Sussex District Council’s Full Council in the summer before being implemented.
A spoken English test would cost £30 and involve a number of tasks including reading sentences from a printed sheet, repeating sentences, answering both simple and open questions, and reconstructing sentences from multiple segments read to the candidate.
The requirement for any test of this type would need to be applied equally to all candidates, apart from those who already have passed a relevant English language qualification at a suitable level.
An officers’ report due to be discussed by councillors on Wednesday reads: “Adequate communication skills and language proficiency are considered essential for the work of a taxi or private hire driver, due to the need to correctly understand and follow directional instructions from a passenger, and to enable the driver to give and follow instructions in an emergency situation, which may be stressful.”
No other West Sussex authorities currently require drivers to undergo an English test, but it is being introduced by licensing authorities in other parts of the country.
The proposals follow concerns from several Mid Sussex district councillors about some licensed drivers’ ability to communicate in English.
The report says that these concerns were echoed in some consultation responses when MSDC was looking to revise its Hackney Carriage and Private Vehicle Hire Licensing Policy last year.
The test would only apply to new applications for a driver’s licence, but if an existing driver is brought before the Licensing Sub-Committee, members may require them to take the test if they feel the driver’s spoken English is inadequate.
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