New taxi and private hire industry applicants must now have their applications processed as normal as part of statutory licensing guidelines, says governmental department.
Since the outbreak of coronavirus forcing a national lockdown in March, many Local Authorities switched to emergency measures, processing just renewal applications for existing drivers and pausing any new applications.
However, there are now growing concerns from the Department for Transport (DfT) that ongoing difficulties and delays in licensing new drivers and operators could lead to shortages of supply in the sector.
According to Transport for London (TfL), the UK’s biggest taxi and private hire licensing authority, a total of 2,383 driver applications are awaiting initial assessment. Of those applications, 2,000 are new, of which 1,998 are from prospective private hire drivers and just 2 from would-be taxi drivers.
383 of the applications are renewals which are still currently prioritised over new applications.
In a statement on their website, TfL say: ‘We continue to focus on critical activities, such as the processing of renewal applications to ensure continual licensing for drivers and operators and ensuring that London is kept safe and accessible for key workers.
‘Applications for new taxi and private hire driver and operator licences will not be processed until further notice.’
Stephen Fidler, Local Transport Director at Department for Transport (DfT), wrote to Local Authorities saying: “The Department recognises that the pandemic has created a very challenging environment for local government to operate in, with the need to adapt quickly and decisively to maintain business as usual. We appreciate, too, that taxi and private hire vehicle licensing teams have been particularly affected, as a key part of many licensing regimes was face to face interactions with applicants to determine if they are fit and proper to hold a licence.
“You will be aware that as the economy has started to reopen it is important there are sufficient licensed taxi and private hire drivers and vehicles available to meet the returning passenger demand. Concerns have been recently raised with the Department that, in some places, difficulties in licensing new drivers and operators could lead to shortages of supply in the sector. We understand that, in response to the initial lock down restrictions, a number of licensing authorities put new applications on hold in order to focus on dealing with renewal applications, and that some have not yet resumed their processing.
“Taxi and private hire vehicle licensing is a statutory function of local licensing authorities and it is important that it continues during these challenging times, both to support the restart of schools and support local economies and to limit any long-term impacts on the sector. We are aware that licensing authorities across England have come up with innovative solutions to overcome challenges around issues such as DBS checks, identification verification, medical and local tests and training requirements to enable the continued processing of all applications. If your authority is one of these many thanks for your efforts and hard work.
“If your authority is not yet processing new applications, however, we would urge you to urgently identify solutions that will enable you to resume this service to ensure that you can fulfil your statutory licensing function. You may wish to seek advice from your representative bodies, such as the Local Government Association or the Institute of Licensing, and/or other local licensing authority contacts in areas that are accepting new applications.”