South Staffordshire Council has agreed to hand over their taxi and private hire licensing to Wolverhampton Council, who they believe are more well equipped for the process and changes within the industry.
Wolverhampton Council will take over the reins for a minimum of three years it was decided at a council meeting on Tuesday 7 December.
A cabinet report said: “The taxi market is undergoing significant change in the same way that Licensing authorities are. This has been further accelerated through the Covid pandemic.
“The key challenges (include) increasing cross-border hire based on apps, e.g. Uber, (and) the need for greater enforcement resources to be devoted to taxi licensing as a result of various investigations into child sexual exploitation.
"App-based booking systems, supported by case law, make the traditional view of a private hire operator in an office with a phone located within the boundary of the licensing authority outdated.
“The Covid pandemic has forced the way we do business with the trade to find online rather than face to face solutions to processing applications for licenses. It has also created additional urgency in reducing the financial burdens on both the council and the taxi trade.
“CWC (City Wolverhampton Council) has embraced and dealt with these changes. The level of process change and investment by CWC, embracing new technology for service delivery and taking into account the new technology used by the taxi trade, along with a robust approach to compliance and enforcement is impressive.”
The report went on to highlight the financial struggles in which Staffordshire Council have/and/or are likely to face in the near future in relation to taxi and private hire licensing. It continued: “The council has been struggling to balance income and expenditure on taxi licensing for the last 5 years, and this will increasingly become more difficult with a balance shortfall of £25,000 expected by 2023.
“Government and the Local Government Association advice and guidance, supported by case law, encourages local authorities to ensure that all administration and enforcement costs of a licensing system are met by the beneficiaries of the system and not at the expense of the general taxpayer.
“SSDC faces the same financial challenges that all public sector organisations are facing in trying to achieve a balanced budget and financial stability through its Medium-Term Financial Strategy.
“If the taxi licensing function is not delegated to CWC there will need to be a significant increase in taxi licensing fees in order to sustain a balance in expenditure and income.”
Wolverhampton Council has previously faced criticism over its licensing structure, with suggestions in the past that its taxi and private hire licences were easier to obtain than in other surrounding licensing authorities.
Report have been made that drivers from outside of the area would obtain a licence with Wolverhampton Council and then work outside the city on one of the ride-hailing apps (which is legal).
Wolverhampton Council has always defended its position and claimed that its licensing process is just as rigorous as any other licensing authority.