South Staffordshire council has handed over its taxi and private hire licensing to Wolverhampton council, which it believes is better equipped for the process and changes within the industry.
Wolverhampton council will take over licensing in the region for a minimum of three years, it was decided at a council meeting before Christmas.
A South Staffordshire council 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 report said key challenges include increasing cross-border hire based on apps, 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view of a private hire operator in an office with a phone located within the boundary of the licensing authority outdated,” the report continued. “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.”
Wolverhampton Council (CWC) 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 that Staffordshire Council is likely to face in relation to taxi and private hire licensing. “The council has been struggling to balance income and expenditure on taxi licensing for the past five 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.”
The report concluded: “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.”