RMT has today written to the Government to demand an end to the chaotic mismanagement of driver licensing which the union says is putting members livelihoods at risk at a time when the trade is coming under unprecedented pressure and attacks.
In the capital, Transport for London (TfL) previously had responsibility for administering all aspects of the licensing process. However, the criminal record check for London taxi drivers recently was transferred and is being carried out by the Home Office’s Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
This is a service for which taxi drivers pay a substantial fee (around £60). However, the union has found out that DBS is understaffed or otherwise unable to process checks promptly and a substantial backlog (estimated at around three months or 36,000 applications) has arisen.
Without a licence, a taxi driver cannot legally operate their cab. The financial consequences for the individual and their family of a delay in renewal of a licence can therefore be severe.
When TfL administered all aspects of the licensing process, it took responsibility for delays to renewing licenses arising from its own failures. Meaning that a driver would be issued with a temporary extension to their licence while an otherwise complete and previously issued licence was processed.
Since the criminal records check was transferred to DBS, TfL are no longer willing to show such flexibility. This has left a number of our members unable to earn a living, with many more on the verge of being in the same situation.
To end the threat to taxi drivers livelihoods RMT has made the following demands of the Government:
-Transport for London to have the power to issue temporary licences or otherwise extend existing licences pending the completion of background checks
(this would only apply to existing licence holders, ie drivers who have had their licences returned as satisfactory in previous years)
-the DBS to hire more staff or otherwise improve its processes so that it can more speedily process background checks and/ or for
-responsibility for administering taxi drivers’ criminal records checks to revert to Transport for London
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“The chaotic mismanagement of taxi driver licensing by Central Government is causing complete chaos and threatens the very ability of our members to make a living. This intolerable situation cannot be allowed to continue and requires urgent action as set out in RMT’s letter to the Home Office.
“The taxi trade is under unprecedented attack and pressures at the moment and the last thing that drivers need is an exercise in Government incompetence lumped on the top. Those responsible must be called to account and should be forced to adopt the sensible way forward that has been mapped out by the union.”