COUNCILLORS are urging the Government to close a loophole allowing cross-border taxi hiring in an effort to protect children.

At a Cheshire East Council cabinet meeting on Tuesday it was agreed that Cllr Ainsley Arnold, cabinet member for housing, planning and regeneration, will write to transport secretary Chris Grayling on the matter.

In his letter, Cllr Arnold will ask the Government to close the loopholes and ‘potential for abuse left open as a result of cross-border hiring’, while he will also ask the borough’s MPs to support the move.

“The current legislation relating to taxi licensing was written in 1847 and 1976,” he said.

“There are therefore various matters and situations that currently arise in today’s world that were not envisaged when the legislation was written.”

Government legislation in 2015 made cross-border taxi hiring easier, meaning vehicles licensed by other councils can lawfully work in east Cheshire without meeting CEC’s requirements, and this has become more common with the growth of mobile technology.

The council previously wrote to MPs stating its concerns about cross-border hiring, including the potential risk of child sexual exploitation, trafficking and drug dealing.

A report issued ahead of Tuesday’s meeting said it is not possible to establish if this risk exists in east Cheshire, and no complaints had been made to suggest this – but it highlights that investigations into child sexual exploitation in Rochdale and Rotherham did identify the taxi trade as a risk.

Cllr Arnold added: “This is something, no matter what party, we [councillors] all feel strongly about this.

“The sooner we get these loopholes closed the better.”

The cabinet’s latest decision follows a motion tabled by Cllr Dorothy Flude, Labour member for Crewe South, at February’s full council meeting.

She called for all east Cheshire MPs to resubmit a bill on the matter in the House of Commons, which was ‘talked out’ by Sir Christopher Chope, Conservative MP for Christchurch.

The report issued ahead of Tuesday’s meeting recommended that the Government ‘looked into how loopholes could be closed’, but Cllr Flude pushed for CEC to be tougher in its demands.

“I would like to ask the Government to close the loophole, not to consider how to close the loophole,” she said.

“Let’s not be under any illusions that it is not happening. There was a case of a person from Nantwich who was found guilty of doing this.”

The cabinet agreed to ask the Government to close the loophole, with CEC leader Cllr Rachel Bailey adding she has ‘no issues’ in doing so.

Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton, previously urged Chris Grayling to resolve the matter before the Licensing of Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles Bill had its second reading in the House of Commons in February.