Leeds City Council has announced details of a multi-million pound package of measures designed to provide much-needed support to hard-pressed taxi and private hire drivers and operators.
The council is making £2.5m available to fund free three-year taxi and private hire licence renewals for drivers, delivering a timely boost to a trade that has been particularly badly affected by COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
Taxi and private hire drivers and operators with a Leeds business address will also be able to apply for £500 grants following the reopening later this month of a coronavirus support scheme for businesses with low fixed property costs. Support was also available for those working in the trade when the scheme was originally open last year.
Across the board, schemes being put in place by the council mean more than £7.5m worth of support is on offer to taxi and private hire drivers and operators.
In a normal year, it is estimated that more than 30 million journeys are made by taxis or private hire vehicles in Leeds. Since the start of the pandemic, however, the number of journeys being undertaken has significantly reduced, leading to a drop-off in the earnings of drivers.
Councillor James Lewis, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “The pandemic has had a major impact on people working in many different sectors across Leeds, with taxi and private hire drivers among those most seriously affected.
“These drivers are part of the lifeblood of our city and we are determined to do as much as we can to help protect their livelihoods.
“In addition, many people – especially those with mobility needs or a disability – rely on taxis and private hire vehicles to get around. Supporting drivers means we are supporting those people as well.”
Funded as part of the council’s direct response to the COVID-19 crisis, the free three-year licence renewals will be worth £450 to most taxi and private hire drivers. Applicants should be due to renew their Leeds licence between 1st March 2021 and 31st March 2022, and must also meet the council’s current licensing standards.
In a separate move, unrelated to the council’s pandemic response, grants are on offer to taxi and private hire vehicle owners who have switched to low emission vehicles. Owners who bought an eligible vehicle on or after February 29 last year, for example, can apply for a transitional grant worth £2,100.
The £1.9m funding for the transitional grants has been retained by the council after originally being secured as part of Leeds’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) scheme. The council announced in October last year that improvements in air quality and a rise in the number of cleaner, greener vehicles on the city’s roads meant the CAZ scheme did not need to go ahead.
Taxi and private hire vehicle owners who switched to low emission vehicles on or before February 28 last year will be offered free three-year licence renewals that will be paid for using a further £1.8m of retained CAZ money rather than COVID-19 funding.
For further information about these free renewals, visit https://www.leeds.gov.uk/business/licensing/taxi-and-private-hire-licensing/free-driver-licensing.
For more details on low emission vehicle grants, visit https://www.leeds.gov.uk/business/licensing/taxi-and-private-hire-licensing/financial-support-overview.
Bradford to also provide Taxi grants
In a separate move, Bradford Council has launched the Bradford Council Taxi Charter after a campaign led by Imran Hussain MP. The charter looks to set out clear expectations of how the Council will work with our district’s taxi drivers to support this essential service.
Bradford Council will also provide a one-off support grant for all the district’s taxi drivers.
The funding will allow all the District’s licensed taxi drivers to claim £600 in support. Drivers will be able to apply for the grant from 15th March up until 29th March and the Council will pay out the grant from the week commencing 5th April.
The Council will email all licenced taxi-drivers in the district asking them to complete a simple form to confirm their eligibility.
The funding will be provided from the Government’s Additional Restrictions Grant for small businesses.