All councils in England were allocated a budget to support businesses impacted by Covid-19. Why have 72 councils completely overlooked taxi and private hire drivers?
During the coronavirus pandemic, some businesses have been affected worse than others. Those offering services relying on people being out of the house are suffering worse than all. Amid the ‘work from home’ revolution, taxi and private-hire drivers have had the worst of it. Additionally, unlike restaurants and bars, people aren’t putting a taxi ride at the top of their list of post-lockdown priorities.
Why Aren’t The Government Paying Attention To The Needs Of Drivers?
To keep taxi and private-hire drivers working, you need to have people going somewhere. The pandemic has kept most people at home, and even outside of strict lockdown, the taxi and private-hire industry is having an incredibly tough time. With the night economy gone, drivers need help. For that reason Private Hire and Taxi Monthly magazine (PHTM), a leading news resource for the taxi and private-hire trades, this month named and shamed the 72 councils that had completely ignored the needs of their readers.
The private-hire licensing system allows drivers to live in one council and work in another. This has historically proved helpful for those wanting to live in a cheaper area but get jobs in a high-traffic central location. Unfortunately, this appears to have contributed to councils disconnecting the admin of licensing with the need to support people in difficult financial situations.
Even Those Local Authorities Giving Support Aren’t Doing Enough
Among the 239 councils that are addressing the private-hire and taxi industry’s need for financial support, grant amounts vary dramatically from council to council. Its a complete lottery, varying for drivers in neighbouring counties or even under different councils in the same county. Industry figures have argued that firmer guidance should have been provided by parliament as to how much private hire professionals should have received.
There is no council in the land where taxis and private hire vehicles are not part of the infrastructure and used by citizens daily. Local Authorities with smaller numbers of private-hire drivers should be even more willing to give financial compensation, as take-up for the grant will be lower.
Drivers in councils offering support are eligible for the ARG (additional restrictions grant). Even in the areas making ARGs available to drivers, councils are not widely publicising the facility. Additionally, admin and deadlines are sometimes a barrier to drivers getting the money they need. Taxi and private-hire drivers have reported that they had no idea they were even eligible, or that they inquired and were told the money was allocated or that the deadline had passed. There are also reports of eligible drivers being rejected in their licensed council and told to claim from the council they live in or vice versa.
Drivers have also been rejected because they have received a SEISS (Self-Employment Income Support Scheme) grant. PHTM had this to say regarding the situation:
‘PHTM reminds all those councils that the ARG scheme is aimed at helping businesses with ongoing fixed costs, SEISS is calculated on income after fixed costs have been paid. Therefore, eligibility for ARG has NOTHING TO DO with claiming SEISS and this SHOULD NOT be part of the criteria’.
A Light At The End Of The Tunnel
Organisations like PHTM, National Private Hire Taxi Association (NPHTA), Licensed Private Hire Car Association (LPHCA) and other local trade associations are campaigning heavily on behalf of drivers. This has prompted central government to question how local governments have allocated grant money?
An official investigation is underway to identify why Local Authorities have failed to release £1.6bn worth of grants to businesses, despite funds being given in October 2020. The pandemic presents an unprecedented problem, but we hope parliament takes the opportunity to communicate to councils that taxi and private-hire drivers must be looked after.