A CLAMPDOWN on cab companies forcing their drivers to break licensing rules has been launched by Oxford City Council.

The council’s licensing team leader Julian Alison said the local authority would prosecute private hire firms that make employees ply for trade.

Private hire vehicles must be booked in advance and are not allowed to ‘ply for hire’, which means they can’t queue in a rank or be flagged down in the street.

But Mr Alison said he believed many firms were telling their drivers to flout the rules.

He said: “We have a number of licence-holders who will listen to what the operators say because they want to keep their jobs.

“All the operators want is bums on seats, they don’t care about the individual drivers.

“We have seen examples of private hire drivers turning up at hotels, having removed their stickers and pretending to be exempt vehicles.”

Mr Alison told a meeting of the council’s general purposes licensing committee that enforcement officers would target companies on the wrong side of the law.

He said: “You should expect to see the operators up in front of you in future.”

Committee chairman Colin Cook, below, praised officers and said the council’s tougher new policy on law-breakers had been successful.

He said: “My feeling is we have said ‘cheerio’ to far more people than we used to. I think it’s working.”

Green group leader David Williams also expressed concerns about unsafe vehicles being used and people with poor eyesight being drivers.

He said: “We just can’t have the situation of death traps being driven around and we can’t have the situation of drivers who can only see 25 metres in front of them. This committee and the officers are the guardians of public safety.”

But private hire driver Khalil Ahmed said: “I’m not aware of any companies which ask drivers to break the rules, but I assume if Mr Alison is talking about this then he has evidence and will deal with it, which I have no problem with.

“I have worked with the firm 101 and I’m now with Royal and I can’t imagine either of them would flout the rules.

“Drivers are aware of the terms and conditions of their licences and I have no sympathy for drivers who break them.

“Regardless of whether they had been told to do it, they should be prosecuted. If a company told me to violate my licence, I wouldn’t do it.”