The chairwoman of Rotherham’s licensing board says her decision to retire as a councillor is ‘not linked’ to a highly critical report into the town’s child sex abuse scandal.
Judy Dalton, elected to Anston and Woodsetts in 2011, has been chairman of Rotherham Council’s licensing board since May 2014.
Coun Dalton is to retire in May as a councillor, which she confirmed just weeks after the Casey report found the council has not taken, and still does not take, ‘sufficient steps to ensure only fit and proper persons are permitted to hold a taxi licence’.
Staff believed the service was geared more towards helping the trade than protecting the public and councillors ‘added to this pressure’.
Councillors had also urged officers to ‘stop wasting time’ in processing licence applications and some members had made representations on behalf of drivers or the trade.
Coun Dalton, who has been part of the licensing board since 2013, said her decision to retire was ‘not linked to the Casey report’.
She added: “I have been chair of licensing only since May 2014 but in that time I instigated the development of a new, tougher taxi licensing policy, which was welcomed in the report.
“However the report felt the new standards did not go far enough, so I look forward to working with the commissioner until we have the right policy and standards in place as soon as possible to ensure the public safety.
“Having spent nearly forty years in public service, including in the NHS and the last four as a serving borough councillor I now feel the time is right to retire from public life and pursue personal and family projects, of which there are quite a few.”
The Casey followed the explosive Jay report which revealed the 1,400 victims of child sex abuse in Rotherham.
It said that some councillors who had previously held taxi licenses sat on the board, which has recently been reduced from 25 members to five.
Concerns about board hearings held to discuss allegations against taxi drivers were also raised - with members cross examining one driver in a ‘light touch fashion’ and being ‘reluctant’ to hear cases where they were no convictions.
The Casey report said the new draft taxi licensing policy that Coun Dalton referred to was to be welcomed but it still ‘falls short’ in a number of respects.
Its implementation timetable is too long and not enough prominence is given to the need to protect the public.
It said guidance suggested the council would only refuse licences if a driver had more than one conviction for indecency and inspectors found this ‘unacceptable.’
Coun Dalton said this related to ‘confusion’ over indecency offences which did not involve a third party - such as urinating in public, when the board felt a lifetime licence ban for one offence would be ‘excessive’.
In these instances there is currently a five-year ban following any jail sentence.
The board now suggests if such an offence occurs twice there should be a lifetime ban.
Any offence that involves a third party will result in a lifetime ban.
Coun Dalton insisted other authorities imposed lesser bans for sexual offences and the new Rotherham policy ‘appears to be the toughest in the country’