Taxi and Private Hire licence holders

As the current situation with the Covid-19 outbreak continues to develop, the council is constantly keeping the matter under review, following government advice and looking at its own business continuity arrangements to ensure we can continue to deliver the services.

In relation to the taxi and private hire trade, we need to relay the information below. Note please that the situation is constantly changing and the information below may be subject to change, and will be updated accordingly. We will do our best to keep you informed but we appreciate your understanding and patience.

This important information is for all hackney and private hire licence holders – vehicle proprietors, drivers and PH operators. It is important that you read this information as our services will be severely disrupted until further notice due to the impact of COVID–19.


Self-employment income support scheme

On 26 March 2020 HMRC sent the following communication relevant to the trade:

The chancellor announced a new self-employment income support scheme to support self-employed people who have been adversely affected by COVID-19.

GOV.UK has further details about who is eligible for the scheme and how it will work.

Self-employed people do not need to get in touch with HMRC as the scheme isn’t yet open for applications. HMRC will contact eligible customers by the beginning of June, inviting them to apply.

Unfortunately, we are aware of an increase in scam emails, calls and texts. If someone gets in touch claiming to be from HMRC, saying that financial help can be claimed or that a tax refund is owed, and asks you to click on a link or to give information such as your name, credit card or bank details, please do not respond.

HMRC will never contact you out of the blue to ask for these details.

The government has also introduced the following help for the self-employed:


Taxis and private hire vehicles can continue to work

On 25/03/2020 from Paul Elliott, DfT's Policy Adviser, buses and taxis division:

"Taxis and private hire vehicles can continue to work. But the advice is absolutely clear - people should stay at home if possible. That is the way to save lives and protect our NHS. The public should avoid travel unless absolutely essential. The only reasons to leave our houses are set out in the government guidance.

"Clearly if absolutely necessary to travel by taxi or private hire vehicle, best efforts should be used to follow the guidance as far as is practically possible, including washing your hands as soon as you get home."

Critical worker status

Taxi and private hire drivers should not generally be considered critical workers. Those undertaking home to school transport or the transport of ‘extremely vulnerable’ people may be considered critical workers on a case-by-case basis. Critical workers should also whenever possible make suitable arrangements for their children to stay at home; requests for children to attend school should be discussed with the school.”


Taxi and Private Hire Information

Update 27/03/2020

Central government has decided to extend the expiry of MOTs by 6 months in response to the virus crisis. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-mots-for-cars-vans-and-motorcycles-due-from-30-march-2020

However, vehicles licensed by Cheltenham Borough Council as taxis or private hire vehicles must be held to a higher standard than cars used privately. Licensed vehicles are subject to being driven more regularly, under more demanding and intensive conditions and with much higher mileage than the average private car. These variances are likely to be more significant given the current restrictions on movement for the public.

Swanbrook will be unable to offer MOT/ fitness tests after 31 March 2020, until further notice. The Depot is currently unable to offer any test slots. We do hope that may change in early April, but there are no guarantees that will be the case. At the current time, the Depot is not accepting bookings for tests.

We will adopt the following policy on a temporary basis to respond to the difficulty of testing vehicles:-

Existing vehicle licences with a requirement to pass a fitness test every 6 months

With immediate effect, we will not enforce this condition until at least 30/04/2020. We will review our position prior to that date, and update those affected or about to be, at that time. For information, we do enforce this condition in normal circumstances, and we do suspend licences where this condition is not met.

All vehicle licences expiring prior to 31/05/2020

Please submit your renewal application online as normal with as much notice as possible. Please be aware our service may be subject to disruption, and you will not be able to drive your vehicle if we have not renewed it.

You must either upload your documents online as part of your renewal, or submit your documents by email to licensing@cheltenham.gov.uk

  • a copy of your vehicle insurance that is valid for the start of your licence,
  • a photo of your V5 log book
  • a copy of your meter calibration certificate (Hackneys only).
  • We will not need to see a new MOT and Fitness Test to renew your licence. However, we will check online that you have a valid MOT. For this purpose we will accept MOTs that have been extended by 6 months by the government. 

Once we have received all the above, we will issue your ‘paper’ licence by email. We will attach a condition on the licence that will require an MOT and fitness test to be passed within 3 months from the start date of your new licence.

You will be permitted to drive the vehicle once we have issued your licence by email. You must continue to display your existing plate until you receive your new plate. Your new plate will be issued to you by post. There are likely to be delays in sending new plates to you, so please be patient. Once you receive your new plate, please post the old one in the letterbox for the Municipal Offices.

If your licence is already subject to a condition requiring a Fitness Test to be done every 6 months, this condition will remain on your licence. If the crisis continues for a protracted period, we may relax compliance with that requirement.

New vehicle applications received prior to 31/05/2020

We are only accepting applications for vehicles that are already on the approved list of vehicles. (We cannot measure new vehicles currently, so the application will not be determined until Government guidance is relaxed considerably). Please submit your application with as much notice as possible before you wish to use the vehicle.

You must submit your documents as part of your online application, or by email to licensing@cheltenham.gov.uk

  • invoice or bill of sale for the purchase OR a photo of your V5 log book
  • a copy of your vehicle insurance that is valid for the start of your licence,
  • a copy of your meter calibration certificate (Hackneys only)
  • certification of M1 use (we can accept the V5 for this purpose if stated on it)
  • We will not need to see a new MOT and Fitness Test. However, we will check online that you have a valid MOT. For this purpose, we will accept MOTs that have been extended by 6 months by the government. 

Once we have received all the above, we will issue your ‘paper’ licence by email. We will attach a condition on the licence that will require an MOT and fitness test to be passed within 3 months from the start date of your new licence. Please provide as much notice as possible, as our service may be subject to disruption, and you will not be able to drive your vehicle until we have issued the licence by email.

We will prioritise the issue of plates for new applications, but there will still be delays in issuing them. However, you will be permitted to drive the vehicle as a hackney carriage or private hire vehicle once we have issued your licence by email.

N.B. For new vehicles, we will revert to our normal policy in respect of MOTs / Fitness tests when there is good availability of test slots.

All drivers and vehicle proprietors

Most importantly, we remind all vehicle proprietors of your responsibilities to ensure that your vehicles remain safe for the public to use and to be driven. There are checks that all drivers should be carrying out regularly, in any case; but particularly where you may find it difficult to access garage services: https://www.gov.uk/check-vehicle-safe


Update 24/03/2020

From 24 March, the Municipal Offices will be closed to the public. We will deliver the fullest service possible, and limit disruption to you as service users; but you must help us to do so.

  1. Open sessions are now cancelled with immediate effect.
  2. In the first instance email (licensing@cheltenham.gov.uk) should be used for all contact. Do not telephone our offices unless absolutely necessary. Please note - it is highly unlikely that any situation will be deemed necessary for face to face contact with you – to protect our staff, our customers and of course all of our families.
  3. You are advised to allow at least 7 – 10 days before any licence expires and submit your application online with at least that notice. (Bear in mind that you can submit your renewal application and payment prior to us having all of your documentation). 
  4. We have closed the facility to apply online for new hackney/private hire driver licences from today (24 March). We will not process these applications until further notice, as we rely on face to face contact for so much of the process.
  5. We will continue to process vehicle and Private Hire Operator renewals. However, all paperwork must be scanned/ copied and sent to us by email (licensing@cheltenham.gov.uk). Documents will not be accepted at the Municipal Offices with immediate effect.
  6. We will issue all such vehicle plates by post. It is imperative that you allow good time for us to do this, and bear in mind staff numbers working in the Municipal Offices are severely reduced. You can return your old plate to us by posting it through one of the external letterboxes at the front and rear of the Municipal Offices if you are able to do so otherwise please keep them until we are able to restart public facing services. This is a temporary measure whilst the council responds to the current crisis.
  7. Ensure that you allow sufficient time for your MOT/ fitness test. The Depot currently have significantly less slots available and Swanbrook may experience service disruption in the immediate future. Help yourself by arranging your slot in good time. MOT tests can be carried out up to one month before its due date.
  8. Our policy on late renewals remains unchanged, and late renewals are likely to lead to delays and possibly additional requirements. If you have a genuine difficulty please contact us in good time before your licence expires.
  9. For new vehicle applications, we can no longer continue to measure vehicles that are not on the approved list of vehicles. This service is suspended until further notice and so we cannot process applications for such vehicles at this time. If you are unsure whether a vehicle is on the current list, please email us the vehicle registration, make and model. 
  10. The driver renewal process will change as explained in this document. All renewal applications made from today (24 March) must include the attached form completed. If your application to renew is currently being processed and you have not completed a DBS form and/ or had your medical completed then you should also use the relevant declarations on the attached form, and send it to us by email. We will accept copies of medicals and DBS certificates by email as a temporary measure where they are received by you, but you will be only issued with a 6 month licence by email until we have seen the original documents. These measures are being implemented due to the difficulty of obtaining medical appointments and due to the significant face to face contact required to process a DBS disclosure.
  11. We will be issuing interim driver licences on renewal to allow a period of up to 6 months to licence drivers on a short term basis, pending proper completion of all requirements in due course. Please read the attached document to better understand our approach.
  12. To be clear, we will not issue new badges until all requirements have been met in due course. You must continue to carry your existing badge. We will send you the ‘paper’ interim 6 month licence by email and you should print this off or carry a copy on your mobile when working.
  13. Our website content will be amended to reflect these changes.
  14. The April Local knowledge test and safeguarding course is cancelled. We hope to run the May session, but this too will cancelled or postponed if circumstances dictate.
  15. Our service will be disrupted in this manner, until at least the time when Government guidance shows a return to normality.
  16. N.B. We may have to bring in further modifications to our service in due course, if conditions worsen. We are doing our best to continue to deliver our services to you in these difficult times, but bear in mind the difficulties we will face in delivering our service and for you in accessing our service. Please allow more than enough time to deal with service disruption for us and the garages carrying out fitness tests when you renew your licences or need advice from us.

Licensing committees and decision making

A temporary change to some delegations are been agreed to enable the council to continue to deal with matters that would normally have been referred to councillors. This include the ability for the chief executive to make urgent policy decisions, officers to make decisions but in consultation with councillors.  Some of the measures announced in this communication will require technical changes to the council’s licensing policy and we will rely on the change of delegations to quickly enact these.  Where these changes are made, we will do our best to communicate these to the trade as soon as possible.  You can read the report on the council’s website.

Precautions

We would like to also take the opportunity to remind the trade of the official advice and the importance of following these for your own, but also your passengers, protection.

  • If you are vulnerable either due to your age, suppressed immunity or pre-existing health conditions, please consider whether it is in your interest to work.
  • If you believe you may have been exposed to the virus through a passenger (or anyone/where else), please consider the official advice to self-isolate particularly if you are displaying symptoms.
  • Regularly clean touch points (such as steering wheel, door handles both inside and outside etc.) with alcohol (minimum 60%) wipes or bleach based cleaning products.
  • Regularly clean the inside of your vehicle with warm water and soap.
  • Consider carrying tissue in your case and a receptacle for disposing of used tissues and wipes.
  • Where possible and practical, please wash your hands regularly. As an interim measure, use hand sanitizing gel with alcohol of a minimum 60%.
  • Read the COVID-19: guidance for staff in the transport sector

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 follow developments on the government website as ways to access these will be announced shortly.

Other

  • Online forms – please refer to our guidance if you are having difficulties with these: