Taxi drivers say delays on renewing licences have 'stopped them working'
Taxi drivers in a Midland borough have complained about difficulties renewing their licences during the coronavirus crisis - which some say has left them unable to work.
Frustrated drivers in Sandwell have hit out at the council which suspended face-to-face appointments during the pandemic, meaning they have had to contact the authority by phone or email.
But there have been complaints that calls have gone unanswered, while some drivers are not able to use email.
It is claimed some drivers have been left unable to work as they have not been able to get their licences renewed, at a time when their income has taken a massive hit because of coronavirus and taxi usage plummeting.
Sandwell Council said it was doing its best to ensure all calls were answered during "unprecedented times".
A private hire taxi driver, who did not want to be named, said: "They don't answer the phone, they expect us all to email. But we are not all good with email. You can be on hold for hours and no-one answers.
"If my licence finishes in March I have to renew it. They have to check the car is safe, they have to check I am fit again. The process is extremely slow.
"Certain taxi drivers can't really email - now you have to download an application. The appointment was face-to-face, now we have to submit everything online. It's affecting certain people working.
"Drivers have had to stop working because their licences have expired. In the last four or five months we have had no income whatsoever."
A council spokesman said: “The taxi licensing authority had to take the decision to temporarily suspend face-to-face appointments in the wake of the Covid pandemic in order to protect our customers and our staff.
“The taxi licensing team has and continues to be contactable by both telephone and email.
“We do speak to our licence holders and understand the challenges these unprecedented times are causing them and as a result our officers are attempting to work with each individual licence holder on a case by case basis to find the easiest and most efficient way of resolving their enquiry.
“As a result of the decision to temporarily suspend face-to-face appointments the service has seen unprecedented levels of contact via email and telephone.
“The taxi licensing team is working hard to respond to and resolve queries in a timely manner with our key aim being to keep our taxi drivers on the road throughout this very difficult time."
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