Taxi driver licensing applications – fixing complexity, inefficiency and risk

Full Application: Not funded at this stage

The common problem we propose to investigate builds on the previous discovery, Taxi licensing – fixing complexity, inefficiency and risk. This round of discovery will focus on one service within the taxi licencing space, new taxi driver applications. The aim is to refine user stories collected with an emphasis on this specific process and to broaden the scope of research to include other local authority areas to validate our findings, understand the variability between councils and to explore a ‘to-be’ digital solution suitable for the nation.  

Our initial discovery identified that digital solutions are seldom used within the taxi licencing space. A survey of 98 local authorities showed that only 8% offered a fully digital application process, with 22% providing a mix of digital and paper processes, and 68% provide a fully “paper based” process offering no digital element at all (User Research Report, slides 9, 18).

The research captured that paper-based processes are typically reliant on multiple points of face-to-face contact, use complex language in forms and guidance, often duplicate the information collected from applicants, and do not provide clarity around timescales and pricing. Leading to a perception within the taxi trade, that there is unfairness within the service and lack of value for money. Also, within licencing teams, a lack of confidence in current systems and processes, resulting in unnecessary work-arounds, checking and processing (User Research Report, slides 10 – 12).   

One factor contributing to this problem is an assumption that the taxi trade has little appetite for digital solutions. This has led to change – where change has been made – that does not consider digital as being part of a solution. The discovery project, however, identified a need across all user groups (taxi drivers, taxi operators and licencing officers) for a simple and efficient digital process and each group could identify benefits digital would offer (User Research Report, 11).

Another factor is a lack of standardisation. Local policies and national legislation was identified as a barrier to be confronted if improvements are made. The research identified that there was an acknowledgment within licencing teams for standardisation, but additional investigation is required to understand where standardisation can be made and the implications. (User Research Report, 45).

The following stakeholders identified in relation to this problem are

  • Taxi Drivers;
  • Taxi Operators;
  • Licencing Teams and other local authority employees.
  • Key service owners and senior stakeholders

The User Research Report reference throughout his answered, can be found here:

The previous discovery identified the following assumptions to test with a larger research cohort during this round of discovery:

  1. There is an appetite for a digital solution within the taxi trade and taxi licencing teams across the nation;
  2. The current new diver application process is inefficient, provides a poor customer experience and predominantly non-digital for most councils;
  3. There is little standardisation between councils, with variations policies and processes that results in variable for users experience;
  4. Digital solutions will reduce the cost of administering new driver applications;
  5. Reductions in the cost of administration can be used for greater investment enforcement provision, that may lead to improved public safety.

To understand the appetite for a digital taxi driver application we will carry out user research.  Through interviews and focus groups, we will conduct research with taxi drivers in the application process, capturing their experience, user needs and their willingness to use digital solutions. Using the information collected, we will create user personas to present the breadth of the user in the taxi licencing taking into consideration circumstances, digital literacy, wants and needs. We will recruit research participants from a diverse geographic, demographic and market conditions in the areas represented by the 4 core partners. We will also carry out research in additional councils that have expressed an interest in contributing to the research. We are also planning to partner with additional authorities when they committed to the Local Digital Declaration.  

We will also research with taxi licencing teams, capturing the current user journeys to understand the efficiency, customer experience and opportunities for standardisation between councils. Also working with them to capture the data to create a more robust estimates of the cost of delivering the service at a national scale and to rebuild a model to measure the potential of the direct and indirect benefits from improvement. 

The research of the previous discovery identified that there are a number of tools and products currently being used in the taxi licencing space. A survey of local authorities identified that 11 products were used by licensing with with varying contract lengths and associated costs. (Survey results – slide 1). There are 8% of authorities that already have a digital solution, in this discovery we investigate how these solutions are working to meet user needs. 

The business case reference throughout this answer can be found here: The survey results can be found here:

In the first round of discovery the cost of taxi licensing at the national scale was conservatively estimated at £80m (Business Case, 8).  This is likely to be an underestimate, however, as the cost focused solely on the cost to licensing teams. Broader consideration of the costs to councils needs to be considered in other areas such as: customer services, support from legal and democratic teams to regulatory committees and other internal teams.

All unitary, metropolitan and district councils in England and Wales (a total of 305 councils) have a responsibility for taxi licencing.  Taxi Driver Licencing Applicants are a significant element of the taxi licensing space, in the North East 56% of licences granted in 2018 related to driver licenses. The survey of councils in the previous discovery highlighted that digital solutions were an exception in this space. Only 8% of councils reported that they had a fully digital solution, with 22% having a partly digital solution, and 68% being fully paper-based (User Research Report, 9, 18). Indicating that there is significant potential for the use of digital solutions in the taxi licensing space.

The previous discovery estimated the potential impact a digital solution could result in a 41% reduction in the cost of administering a taxi license (Business Case, 17). The analysis factored the benefits achieved from changes to key elements of the process; channel shift, a reduction in the number of face to face meetings and process efficient from a reduction in a paper based system.  However, this figure does not factor in the variations between charges, policies, processes and digital maturity/uptake across different authorities. 

The business case reference throughout this answer can be found here:

A multidisciplinary agile team will utilise web-based tools for collaboration, ensuring location is not a barrier to strong collaboration.  Tools will include:

  • Slack – dedicated team channel, allowing real-time messaging, tools, documents etc.  Project specific threads will allow for focused conversations.
  • Trello – A Kanban board will be created to give team members a visual overview of what is being worked on, by who and status.  Members will access tasks assigned following planning meetings. 
  • Skype – video calling will be scheduled throughout discovery allowing face-to-face conversations.
  • Google Docs/Drive; G-Docs: used when collaboratively and concurrently working on documents.  G-Drive – to store documents within a central folder, accessible remotely, acting as depository.

Email, telephone and face-to-face communication will also be used.

Governance will be aligned to Agile principles and Service Manual.  Everyone will be responsible for and involved in project governance.  The Agile Project Manager will take responsibility for ensuring governance tools are set-up and interventions are scheduled, e.g. stand-ups, planning meetings and retrospectives.  

Other stakeholders will support the agile team through management and governance activity; including:

  • Key service owners and senior stakeholders;
  • Procurement, finance, legal;
  • Digital/technology leads.

We intend to work closely with the Local Digital Collaboration Unit.  In our initial discovery we feel we worked well with our contact. As questions arose, we were able to quickly seek guidance and support, receiving quick and thorough responses and support.  For example when requiring respondents to our local authority survey we were able to gain assistance to promote the survey to other local authorities, helping gain very strong interest in the project and 98 respondents.

Prior to project kick-off we intend to have fully established the skills and experience of our agile team through a project skills appraisal.  This will help us to determine how we can best use the skills and experience within our agile team. However, it will allow us to establish what training would add value and give team members refreshed or new skills and knowledge to strongly support the delivery of the project.

Having successfully accessed the digital marketplace in our round 1 discovery we feel we have the knowledge and experience to procure an agile specialist supplier again.  However, as and when required we will utilise support and guidance through the Local Digital Collaboration Unit.

Support and guidance would be required to support the development of the business case, particularly modelling the economic benefits at a national scale.