An independent review into taxi licensing failures at South Ribble Borough Council has found a 'lack of awareness and priority given to safeguarding and the safety of taxi passengers'.

The report, published yesterday, voiced concerns that a number of failings when licensing drivers led to safeguarding issues for passengers which could have left them vulnerable to child sexual exploitation or other dangers.

The report, written by solicitors Wilkins Chapman concluded staff frustration over a new IT system had resulted in around 40 licence applications being completed without the correct documentation in place.

Investigations into concerns about taxi drivers, if carried out at all, appeared to lack structure and record keeping was poor.

Liaison with police on the possible criminal backgrounds of drivers took place, but lacked structure.

The council had issued licences without seeing a Disclosure and Barring Certificate.

In April, a leaked version of the report contained details of two taxi drivers who had been the focus of child safeguarding concerns.

One has since had their licence revoked.

At that time two licensing officers had already been suspended and in the light of the report disciplinary proceedings are now being considered.

Calls were later made by opposition councillors to oust the leader of the council, Councillor Margaret Smith, but she survived a vote on the issue.

Unveiling the report, she said: “The council welcomes this independent report today.

"We fully accept its recommendations and are on course to implement them all.

“Nothing matters more to this council than the safety of our residents – in particular that of our children and young people.

"The public rightly expects our Licensing Service to provide them with the right level of protection and we regret any instances where we have fallen short of the mark.

“This council operates in an open and transparent way.

That is why, as soon as concerns were raised about our Licensing Service, we acted swiftly and commissioned this external report by an independent firm of solicitors.

“However, we didn’t sit back and wait for the outcome of that review.

"Over the last six months the council has been active in responding to any concerns.

"We made improvements as soon as the issues were raised, and as a result the final report has not seen the need for any further recommendations.

“This council is dedicated to having a Licensing Service that is the very best it can be and we have developed an action plan to ensure this happens.

“We have checked and double-checked the licence of every single taxi driver licensed by South Ribble Borough Council.

"We have given refresher training to all employees and members of the Licensing Committee in safeguarding children.

"We will also be rolling out a programme for all councillors, as well as undertaking training for the taxi trade itself.

“We have excellent working relationships with the Police and Crime Commissioner, the Lancashire Safeguarding Children Board and other councils across Lancashire.

"We thank them for their invaluable support over the last few months and look forward to continuing to work closely with them as we bring in a robust licensing policy.

“The council has also asked that the safeguarding board undertakes a full audit of all our policies and procedures.

"This is a voluntary audit which we have requested to ensure we are as effective as possible.

“Our residents should be reassured that this council will continue to work tirelessly to make sure our Licensing Service is absolutely spot on and that we are doing everything within our power to keep them safe.”