Updated: Nov 24, 2019
The Local Government & Social Care Ombudsman has ruled in favour of a private hire driver who said an error by Norwich City Council led to loss of earnings.
The man, titled 'Mr B' in the report by the Ombudsmen, made a complaint about how the council handled his application for a private hire taxi licence.
Mr B said the Council’s delay caused him wasted fees, inconvenience and lost earnings. The Ombudsmen confirmed that the complaint and information provided by the claimant was viewed and discussed.
The report says: 'The government says it is for individual councils to make their own decisions on taxi licensing policies and individual licence applications.
'The aim of licensing is to protect the public while ensuring they have reasonable access to taxi services.
'The Council’s website sets out the requirements for applicants for private hire taxi licences. It says that before you apply for a licence you need to pass a driving assessment and a knowledge test.
'Amongst other items, you must submit a medical certificate and Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) certificate with your application.
'The DBS certificate must be less than a month old. The Council’s website says that you should not complete the online application until you have all the documentation ready.'
Mr B contacted the Council on 28 February. He asked the Council to take the DBS application despite the fact that he did not have all the required documentation for his application at that stage.
The Council accepts that it did not advise Mr B properly about the process and should have told him to get the medical certificate, and pass the driving assessment and knowledge exam before applying for the DBS certificate.
The Council misfiled the DBS application and had not submitted it.
Mr B contacted the Council again on 18 March. The Council accepted that it should have submitted the DBS application immediately as promised.
Mr B withdrew his application and the Council refunded the application fee. Mr B applied to a neighbouring council on 19 March and gained his licence.
Mr B complained to the Council on 20 March and it responded on 26 March. It acknowledged that it had wrongly advised Mr B of the process and had failed to submit his DBS application. It apologised for its shortcomings.
Mr B told the Council he had lost potential earnings because he could not start work without a licence.
The Council said it would not be appropriate to compensate his loss of earnings as it could not assess these, but it did offer to pay £85 for his medical assessment that had to be repeated and a further £100 in recognition of the delays.
The report confirms that the council has acknowledged that it was at fault when it failed to properly advise Mr B of the process and when it failed to submit his DBS application. This caused Mr B to waste fees and delayed the granting of his licence by at least 19 days. It also caused Mr B time and trouble in making the new application, and frustration.
The Council has apologised, refunded the medical and application fee, and offered to pay £100 as a goodwill gesture.
The Council dealt with the matter as soon as it came to light and so its offer of £100 is a proportionate amount in recognition of the frustration caused to Mr B.
The report says the council should also refund the £27 paid for the driving assessment.
The Ombudsmen said: 'I have considered whether I can recommend a payment in respect of Mr B’s lost opportunity to earn in the 19-day delay.
'I am not able to assess or estimate Mr B’s earning potential in that time. For this reason, Mr B’s loss of earning potential is a matter best dealt with by the court who can establish whether the Council has been negligent and award damages in this regard.'
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