Taxi licensing applications – fixing complexity, inefficiency and risk

Full Application: Funded

Problem Statement

Licensing in the taxi trade is a key statutory responsibility of local government. Gateshead Council and partners (Northumberland County Council and Sunderland City Council) find that delivering license service is time consuming for users and staff; often involving paper applications and repeated visits to council premises.

Underpinning the taxi licensing service is the need to ensure public safety. Recent high-profile cases and police operations around sexual exploitation have highlighted the importance of effective licensing processes. The discovery project will explore digital solutions to improve public safety, whether through quicker decision making, or making it easier to share information with other authorities.


  1. Identify the users of taxi licensing services and understand their specific needs;
  1. Understand digital awareness within the taxi trade and the willingness to take-up digital solutions;
  1. Understand differences, if any, such as geography, demography, market; or other factors within the localities of partner organisations;
  2. Establish the clear benefits an improved solution could provide; such as public safety, efficiency and customer experience;
  3. To have the necessary information to decide the viability of progressing to an alpha project.
  4. To collectively gain valuable knowledge and experience from the delivery of a discovery project in collaboration with MHCLG, providing the foundations for delivery of future projects.

The discovery will be delivered with in-house resources and specialists procured through the digital marketplace, financed by Local Digital Fund.  All partners will provide resource, with Gateshead acting as lead and overarching accountability.

SMART objectives will be created with acceptance criteria to measure the success of sprints and discovery.

Assets will be developed throughout to ensure we are ready to publish by 31 March 19. The table below details outputs to be published:

Deadline Event/activity Milestone/Measure
4 Dec 18 –       Project kick off meeting

–       Formalised agreement

–     Project start;

–     Signed agreement

7 Dec 18 Project team established with R&R’s


–     Multidisciplinary team formed, ready to start Discovery
21 Dec 18 Procurement of specialists Procurement completed
18 Jan 19 Baselining: data analysis, information gathering Baselining/data gathering completed
21 Jan 19 –       Build hypotheses for user research (UR) and establish plan

–       Commencement of round 1 UR

Hypothesis and plan complete

Round 1 UR started

25 Jan 19 GDS Academy training Training complete
5 Feb 19 First round of UR First round of UR complete
19 Feb 19 Analysis of 1st round of UR Analysis complete
20 Feb 19 –       Plan 2nd round of UR and build hypotheses.

–       Plan and start round 2 UR

–       Stage 2 UR plan complete

–       Stage 2 UR started

6 Mar 19 Second round of UR Second round of UR complete
19 Mar 19 Analyse and collate findings Analysis complete
20 Mar 19 Solution options analysis:

–       User journey;

–       Processes;

–       Digital solution

Recommendations report complete
21 Mar 19 Write up business case Business case started
22 Mar 19 Solution consultation:

–       User journey;

–       Processes;

–       Digital solution

Consultation completed
26 Mar 19 Business case and evaluation Business case and evaluation completed
27 Mar 19  Show & tell sessions with:

–       licensing services

–       taxi trade

–       local authorities

–       senior LA employees

–       councillors

Show & tell sessions completed
29 Mar 19 Write up and share the findings:

–       Business case

–       UR report

–       Recommendation report

–       Website

Discovery outputs produced and shared.

Current Cost of the problem

Taxi licensing authorities operate on a cost recovery basis, Gateshead for example has delivery costs in excess of £200,000 per year.  Collectively, Gateshead, Sunderland and Northumberland receive around 4000 applications a year, with estimated costs in excess of £1.1M.

A report published by the DfT 2018, showed there were 285,400 licensed vehicles in England in 2017; using regional costs, it is conservatively estimated in 2017 delivery costs across England exceeded £80m.

Costs are attributed to the process being paper based, with online options focused on providing forms to be printed and submitted in person, post or email.  The process is lengthy, with renewals taking on average take 1–3 weeks and new applications 1-2 months. To reach a decision there can be multiple face to face visits, many forms to complete and a high risk of error throughout.

Project Proposal

To identify a digital solution for new and renewal applications, that can be can be scaled rapidly at low cost to other licensing authorities, reducing cost and processing time, whilst enhancing the customer experience and public safety.

Benefits for service providers

A reduction in cost, processing time and errors; a more straightforward, lean process, making it easier for staff to progress and issue licenses;

Enhanced data sharing, using data insights for service delivery to make better decisions resulting in joined up continuous improvement.

Although not part of the project bid, Sheffield and Newcastle City Council’s are keen to see shareable project outputs/benefits.

Benefits for service users

We aim to increase accessibility by cutting face to face visits, saving travel time and cost through self-service.  This will in turn enhance the customer experience, improve service response time and processing will be faster and less convoluted.

Benefits to the public

Improved public safety through faster, more improved decision making, and making it easier to share data between local authorities.

We follow agile values throughout, giving us flexibility to evolve, as our knowledge and understanding of user needs develop. We will create a cross-functional team with representatives from each partner council that follows agile methods. We will carry out day-to-day collaboration using Trello, Google Docs and Slack, along with show and tells with stakeholders across partners in person at key milestones. We will keep other local authorities updated on our progress and invite feedback from other local authorities in real-time through a blog, social media and slack.

Our local authority areas have wide ranging geographies and demographics. We are therefore confident user research will identify user needs that are relevant throughout the UK, therefore scalable and useable by other local authorities. We will collate and publish research findings and quantitative data.  This will provide insights for other local authorities who encounter the same issues.

Output Action
Business case We will gather information about the process, and associated costs to deliver the taxi licensing service. Using in-house service redesign/business analysis resources, supported by a data analysis, we will capture and analyse the process and cost of an “as-is” process and compare with a proposed “to-be” process. The aim to demonstrate whether any improvement can contribute to a value for money case.
User research report We will publish all outputs on Gateshead Council’s website throughout the discovery phase detailing our user research findings. We will follow common standards and best practice set by GDS and local government to produce a final report.
A summary report & recommendations A summary report will be produced detailing our findings and the outputs, including ‘to-be’ journey maps.  The report will be used to provide a rationale determine whether we proceed to an alpha phase or to evidence why we should not proceed to alpha.


User Profile

We will undertake research with a minimum six users per local authority as follows:

1)  Hackney carriage and private hire taxi drivers and taxi companies.  There are approximately 4000 applications per year to all three partnering authorities, therefore understanding the needs of those that submit applications is fundamental to solution redesign.

2)  We intend to engage with the public/users of taxi services to ensure that public safety is embedded into any potential future solution.

3)  Thirdly, we intend to engage with licensing teams across all three partner organisations, speaking to those who are responsible for administering and awarding licenses and renewals on site.  Any new solution needs to improve current ways of working, whilst reducing cost, enhancing efficiency and removing waste.


  • Face to Face and telephone interviews with taxi drivers, the public, staff and taxi company operators;
  • User Research sessions with the taxi trade, incentivised to promote take-up;
  • Attending local licensing forums;
  • Exit interviews within licensing offices, speaking to taxi drivers who have just accessed the service;

User research objectives

  • To understand the appetite within the taxi trade for digital solutions, including how digitally aware users are;
  • To identify the most efficient and effective process for all stakeholders, whilst ensuring public safety is at the core of any new proposal;
  • To identify differences (if any) across the localities of all partners to understand the impact that local geographies, demographic or market may have on user needs.

We would like to be able to benefit from:

  • Support and guidance as/if required from MHCLG
  • Access to GDS user research labs (to help us bring down the project cost for user research sessions)
  • Crash course of basic Agile training for the whole team
  • Ability to send comms via MHCLG channels (like newsletter, twitter, etc) to help us ‘work out loud’
  • Help with sharing the outputs with the local gov sector
  • Help with engaging with other councils that may want to feed into our project.
  • Would be beneficial that any GDS Academy training was delivered in the North East

No funding previously received  

1 thought on “Gateshead Council

  1. As Director, Positive Attributes:

    There is a great opportunity in this project to look at the potential for attribute exchange to streamline the process. Attribute exchange could make eligibility information available in real time, with customer consent, and remove the need for paper evidence. The private beta with Warwickshire CC, DWP, and GDS, is a good example of what is possible.

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