For the past 6 months the Public Protection Service, specifically, the Licensing team, have been working with the Digital by Design teams to overhaul the Taxi Driver and Vehicle Licensing application processes.

The existing system was paper-based, inefficient and unpopular with both users and staff. New applicants could download the forms from the website to print themselves, but more often asked for it to be sent out by post, all 54 pages of it! Renewal forms were automatically sent out by post.  There was also a waiting list of over 3 months for an appointment to submit the application.

Applicants were required to manually complete the forms, before booking an appointment to bring in the form to a ‘Taxi Surgery’ at Fred Perry House. Our staff checked the form was completed correctly, verified supporting documents, took payments and passed everything on to the back office, where all the information had to be manually typed into the licensing database.  New driver applicants had to subsequently pass the driver knowledge test before their application could be approved.

What we’ve done

  • re-designed the taxi licensing pages and new web content
    • re-designed the taxi licensing page structure (information architecture) to improve user journeys
    • written new web content for drivers, vehicles and operators licences – guiding all applicants to the right information they need to apply
    • removed all paper-based application packs and forms
    • improved content for taxi passengers to include taxi rank locations, accessibility and safety
    • testing with existing users
  • new online application forms for taxi drivers and vehicle licensing. Applicants now apply and pay entirely online. They still need to bring supporting documents for verification and a photograph into Fred Perry House, but this is a quick visit to a drop-in session for which no appointment is necessary
  • new drivers must now pass the knowledge test before they apply for a driver’s licence.
  • an online application form has been created for appointments to take the knowledge test which integrates with our inhouse booking system

The new process went live for new driver and vehicle licence applications in August and will be rolled out to renewal applications in November. Introducing the changes in stages has been a good approach so that if we have any issues, we can fix them as we go along.

There have been challenges but the support we’ve received from our Place Systems team and digital teams has been brilliant. They have completely redesigned our website and provided a digital solution to transform taxi licensing application processes. 

Benefits for customers

We spoke to our users and they said they did not like the paper-based processes. Time is money for taxi drivers and having to wait for the paper form to arrive, wait for an appointment and then spend time going through all the information face to face took more time than anyone wanted.

Under the new system:

  • there is no waiting for a taxi surgery appointment
  • drivers have the flexibility to apply at a time that suits them, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week anywhere they are online. Because our website works on mobile phones, tablets and computers, they can even work through the application process in the car when they are waiting for bookings
  • late applications will be less of a problem. Previously if they had forgotten to make an appointment, the delay could mean the difference between them renewing on time or losing working days as they couldn’t legally operate once their previous licence expired
  • application turnaround times should be reduced. We’re not there yet but we are aiming to reduce this from 2 weeks to 5 working days 

We’ve already had some great feedback from our new applicants this summer:

 Handy to be able to make the application in the evening, so I didn’t have to take time out of my day job.

Great that I didn’t have to wait to make an appointment.

The online application form is flexible.

As we introduce this new system, we are also signposting where taxi drivers can get access to the internet or assistance with filling out online forms.

Benefits for Stockport Council

The new processes are much more efficient, solid and robust:

  • the online forms integrate seamlessly into the licensing database without any re-keying by staff. This frees up back office staff to do other important work
  • once the new processes are live for all drivers, there will be reduced pressure on front-line staff. Surgery appointments will be removed as drivers will just be coming in to the drop-ins for verification and to pick up their badges and licence plates
  • we will make savings on printing and postage costs for licence renewals
  • making public safety judgements on whether people can be licenced is critically important and the new process will eliminate inputting errors, resulting in fewer mistakes made
  • some benefits are less tangible, yet equally important, such as fewer people coming to the civic complex and less pressure on parking

What’s next?

We will be closely monitoring changes to numbers of applications, the times that applications are made and processing turnaround times. We will also be seeking feedback from our users.

The new renewals process will rely on us having accurate email addresses for all licence holders so we are about to write out to all current licence holders to remind them to let us know if they change email addresses. Hopefully this will be the last time we have to contact them by post.

And in the near future, we hope to roll out the new processes to other licence types including alcohol, temporary event notices and parking permits.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Sarah Tooth is the Licensing, Parking and Patrols Manager for Stockport Council.