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TAXI LICENSING: Institute of Licensing explores the BIG issues currently facing taxi and PHV sector

There’s never a dull moment in licensing writes John Garforth, who is a local authority Licensing Manager and Vice Chairman of the Institute of Licensing. Here, John explores some current issues and gives his opinion on emerging and current themes. You can sign up to online updates from the Institute at

Maybe we’ll have one new year when things are a bit quieter in licensing but alas no time soon, I fear. From tax conditionality to clean air zones, and from cross border rumblings and a review of the DBS service, there’s lots to be involved in.

Levelling Up White Paper

I read with great interest recently the Government’s levelling up white paper for delivering a long-term programme of change to unlock the potential of people and places in every part of the UK. Just one small part of the programme of change that will result in future consultation is the potential proposal to reduce the number of taxi licensing authorities. This would mean that rather than every district Council being responsible for taxi licensing, it could be that unitary, combined and county councils take on this responsibility. Whilst this is an interesting development which I think is a good idea it will be an enormous task to bring in, requiring lots of planning and preparation. I don’t believe it’s imminent so I may have retired before then!

Best Practice Guidance

There’s also the long-awaited best practice guidance due from the Department for Transport for taxi and private hire licensing. We are told it will be published soon, and that it will pave the way for licensing authorities to consider how they licence and is a further opportunity to review policy. Whilst not statutory guidance it is a useful publication, and the trade should consider its contents and discuss with Local Authority Officers in their local trade forums. There are also talks about a national licensing database, national standards and cross border enforcement. There hangs a massive issue.

Cross Border Working

The passing of the Deregulation Act in 2015 allowed cross border working outside of district via subcontracting between operators in different areas. At first it didn’t impact on local authorities much but the trend of picking off licensing authorities who may not have the standards of others or offer cheaper fees has attracted lots of interest and has seen councils who used to only licence for example a thousand vehicles, now licence upwards of ten thousand and increasing. Whilst lawful this practice is causing great concern up and down the country and is morally wrong in my view. With some licensing authorities encouraging this ‘licence shopping’ to take place by opening up testing centres around the country and having roving compliance officers going into other areas, it can only increase the angst of those authorities who are trying to do right by their residents by encouraging applicants to stay local and work to the policy, conditions and training offers of that authority. With no imminent change to the law expected, one can only hope that either the Government or the problem authorities see sense sooner rather than later.

New National Group

The Institute of Licensing has recently set up a National Taxi and Private Hire Licensing Group whose aim is to foster relationships and discuss current issues and act as the ‘go to’ national group from Government. With a wide range of parties involved, this group has the making of a useful network of professionals to help steer national debate and reform. I look forward to reporting back on how things develop.

Clean Air Zones

Readers should be well aware that in some areas across the country clean air zones are being created. Highly un-popular with the trade, these schemes, usually mandated by Government, have the sole purpose of cleaning up harmful emissions in our atmosphere with a deadline imposed alongside the direction to devise a plan. Often confused with congestion charges by the public, such schemes often impact on the private hire and hackney trades due to links to licensing policy.

Whilst funding is often awarded to assist non-emission compliant vehicles to upgrade, the recent price hikes in the used car market, waiting time for newly manufactured vehicles and the fuel cost increase can only lead to the trade feeling burdened and worried about their future and the costs associated with running their business. It is important that the trade is involved in discussions at local level to ensure that local authorities understand their concerns and discussions can help to tailor future policy direction.

Tax Conditionality

I wouldn’t imagine that any reader of this publication hasn’t heard of the new tax rules in force from the 4 April this year relating to tax registration. To summarise, any operator or driver renewing a licence from the above date has to produce a nine digit code alongside their application for a licence to be considered. This code can be sourced through a GOV.UK account and should only be requested online close to the time when the licence is up for renewal as the code is time limited. New applicants need not source a code unless they have held a licence within the last twelve months. Licence holders must be alert to these changes as it will impact their ability to work.


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