COVID-19: Licensing Advice – Taxi and Private Hire

As the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop, we are keeping the matter under review, following government advice, and updating our own business continuity arrangements to ensure we can continue to deliver our licensing service and to enable firms, vehicles and drivers to continue providing vital public transport where it is safe to do so.

We have collated the current advice on taxi and private hire licensing below. The situation is constantly changing so some of this information may be subject to change without notice. We will do our best to keep you informed but we appreciate your understanding and patience at this time.

We are not able to accept new driver applications at this time, but we hope to be in a position to start doing this again during November. We will confirm here when we have further information on this. Priority will be given to persons who had appointments which were cancelled.

Applications

In line with government advice, officers are working from home as much as possible. Our offices are closed, so please do not attempt to make the trip to drop off any paperwork, payments etc. Knowledge tests and all appointments are cancelled until further notice.

Please see below for specific guidance by licence type, including details of how to apply both online and by email. If you cannot apply by any of the routes detailed, please contact us to discuss.

As we are very busy trying to process as many applications as possible, please do not contact us unless it is absolutely necessary. In the first instance, please check the website for any updates or changes to procedures.

Renewal applications will be prioritised by expiry date. We will do our best to process your application as quickly as possible but please bear in mind it will very likely take longer than usual. If your licence does lapse, you will be unlicensed and you must not carry out licensable activities until you have received a new licence/badge/plate. For driver badges and operator licences, we would suggest you apply at least 8 weeks before the expiry of your licence, and for vehicle plates at least 2 weeks before expiry. 

If you have an application pending with us and need to submit additional documents, please do this via email and ensure you include your badge/plate number in the subject of the email to assist us in linking it with your application.

Contacting the team

  • In the first instance, please use email to contact us. Our email address licensing.unit@whitehorsedc.gov.uk will be monitored throughout the day and we will respond as soon as we are able.
  • If you do not have access to email, please call us on 01235 422556. It is likely that we will not be able to take your call at the time, so please be prepared to leave a message with your name, phone number and the reason for your call.
  • We will try to return any calls and respond to emails within 5 working days.

Medicals

There has been no advice from the government on taxi driver medicals. We are aware that some drivers may face difficulties with getting medicals done if their GP surgery is not carrying out non-urgent appointments.  

If you would like us to consider an extension to your medical expiry date, please email us a completed medical declaration form. An officer will review your records and confirm whether we will grant an extension. Please note that any drivers who require annual medicals (which includes all drivers over the age of 65) are unlikely to be granted any extensions.

The requirement for insulin dependent drivers to have their medical signed off by an independent consultant specialist in diabetes is temporarily being relaxed, but please note that the medical must still be signed off by a specialist in diabetes.

All licensed drivers are required to inform us of a material change to their medical status and this would include testing positive for COVID-19. For the safety of licence holders and the general public it will be necessary for us to temporarily suspend the licence of any driver that tests positive for COVID-19. However, no action will be required by licence holders to have their licence reinstated once the isolation period has ended and they can return to normal activities.

Compliance tests and insurance

All vehicles are still required to have compliance tests as usual, and new insurance documents should still be provided to us prior to the expiry date. Failure to keep up to date with either of these may lead to the suspension of your vehicle licence.

All of our compliance test centres remain open.

Insurance documents should be forwarded to us by emailing showing the thread from your broker or insurer.

No compliance test or insurance reminders will be sent by post until further notice, so please ensure you are aware of your relevant expiry dates. We are looking to see if these can be sent via email in future, so please ensure we have an up to date email address for you at all times.

Other

  • Panel hearings are now being held remotely. If you are required to attend a panel hearing, full details will be sent to you on how to access the meeting with the report. 
  • We are dealing with complaints and compliance issues as normal.

Precautions for driver and passenger safety

The government have published COVID-19 guidance for taxis and private hire vehicles with actions that you can take to protect against coronavirus.

In addition:

Use of partitions or screens in vehicles

We have created guidance on how to seek approval for the installation of a partition or screen

Guidance

You may find the following links useful:

Support

The government has recently put in place measures to support businesses affected by the virus. There are grants and loans available as part of this package, please use the following links for more information:

If you’re a local business owner you can also contact our South and Vale Business Support team.

We recognise these are challenging and uncertain times and would encourage anyone struggling with their mental health and wellbeing or financial difficulties to seek help from the broad range of support available including:

Online applications portal

We have created an online portal through which you can submit driver (renewal only), vehicle and operator applications.

This portal will allow you to upload your signed application form and any supporting documents, and to pay the required fee online. The portal should work via any smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC with internet access.

Applications submitted through the online portal will be prioritised as these applications should be complete at the point of receipt, rather than emailed applications which will require an officer to call you to take payment.

Driver licences – important note

We are currently only able to accept renewal applications. If you had an appointment that was cancelled and your licence lapsed as a result, you will be treated as though you applied to renew before the expiry date.

If you meet the following criteria, and have unlimited leave to remain in the UK, the licence will be granted for the usual 3 year period:

  • You are signed up to the DBS Update Service AND
  • You are able to send us a scan of the full DBS certificate AND
  • The Council saw your original DBS certificate at the last application AND
  • The Council has satisfactory proof of current right to work in the UK on your file from a previous application.

If you meet the above criteria and have limited leave to remain and work in the UK, subject to us being able to confirm any required checks with the Home Office, the licence will be granted either to the visa expiry date, or to a date as advised by the Home Office.

For those not on the DBS Update Service, applications will be reviewed on a case by case basis to consider whether a temporary licence can be issued for 3 months.

Vehicle licences – important note

For any change of vehicle applications, you will need to return the plate to the office by post (we recommend using recorded or special delivery) before we can process the application. As soon as you remove the plate, the vehicle will no longer be able to be used for hire and reward purposes (for hackney carriages, please also remove the roof sign). You cannot use the new vehicle for hire and reward until you receive the new licence and plate.

If you wish to apply for a plate exemption and apply via the portal, an officer will contact you to arrange payment of the fee as it is not currently possible to pay this licence fee online.

Operator licences – important note

Applicants who do not hold a current hackney carriage/private hire driver licence will need to be considered on a case by case basis in respect of the required DBS and Right to Work checks. Please contact us if you fall within this category to discuss with an officer.

How to apply online – drivers, vehicles and operators

  • You will need to print off the application form and complete as normal, including signing and dating the form. Please take care to complete the application form in full. Any incomplete or illegible applications will be rejected and will not be processed.
  • You need to scan this application and any supporting documents. If you do not have access to a scanner, you could try to photograph each page of the form but please note it must be clear and legible or we will not be able to process it.
  • Upload the application and any supporting documents at the online portal and pay the required fee with a debit/credit card
  • You will receive a receipt via email, so please ensure you give your correct email address
  • Once we have a completed application and payment, we will process your application. We will post any licences and badges/plates out to you by first class recorded delivery (someone will need to be in to sign for this) except operator licences, which will be sent by email. You will not be able to collect any items from the office.

How to apply by email – drivers, vehicles and operators

  • You will need to print off the application form and complete as normal, including signing and dating the form. Please take care to complete the application form in full. Any incomplete or illegible applications will be rejected and will not be processed.
  • Scan the application form and any supporting documents and email all of these to us at licensing.unit@whitehorsedc.gov.uk with any supporting documents. If you do not have access to a scanner, you could try to photograph each page of the form but please note it must be clear and legible or we will not be able to process it. Please try to send all the required documents in just one email if possible, as sending multiple emails can lead to our email system thinking your emails are ‘spam’ which results in them going to our junk mail folder.
  • When we are ready to process your application, we will call you to take payment over the phone. If there are any issues with the phone payment system, you will be required to send us a cheque made payable to Vale of White Horse District Council.
  • Once we have a completed application and payment, we will process your application. We will post any licences and badges/plates out to you by first class recorded delivery (someone will need to be in to sign for this) except operator licences, which will be sent by email. You will not be able to collect any items from the office.

Contact us - Licensing

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01235 422556
(Text phone users add 18001 before dialing)

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Vale of White Horse District Council
135 Eastern Avenue
Milton Park
Milton
OX14 4SB