Plans to relax taxi laws could put children in Rotherham at greater risk of sexual exploitation, the Local Government Association has warned.
The Jay Report, which revealed at least 1,400 children in the town had been abuse victims between 1997 and 2013, highlighted the role of taxi drivers in trafficking victims to other towns and cities.
Now the LGA - backed by Rotherham Council - has raised concerns that problems could be made worse across the country by proposals contained in the Deregulation Bill, which is due to go back to the House of Lords next month.
Currently, minicab drivers need to go through a council vetting process, including criminal record and medical history checks, and are the only people allowed to drive their vehicles. But the new legislation proposes minicab licence holders will be able to allow other people to drive their vehicle when they are off-duty - without the need for any checks being carried out.
The LGA, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, says this could make it easier for criminal gangs to use licensed vehicles to groom, rape and traffic children.
Coun Ann Lucas OBE, chairman of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Recent child sex abuse cases in Rotherham and Rochdale are a stark reminder of the position of trust that people put in taxi drivers and the vulnerability of some passengers.
“We remain deeply concerned about the Government’s plan to relax taxi licensing laws which we believe will make it easier for criminal gangs to target vulnerable children for sexual exploitation.”
A spokesman for Rotherham Council added: “The relaxation of taxi licences is not something we would support.”