Taxi and private hire vehicle licensing

This fact sheet is aimed at people who are concerned that the council is not taking appropriate action over issues relating to taxis and private hire vehicles and may be considering making a complaint to the Ombudsman.

I am unhappy with the way the council has handled my concerns about taxi or private hire vehicle licensing. Can the Ombudsman help me?

We can investigate complaints about the way a council has dealt with issues such as fare increases and licence fees, or about delays in handling licence applications.

However, if you are complaining about the decision to refuse a licence, the imposition of a condition or the revocation of a licence, you have a right of appeal to a magistrates’ court which we would normally expect you to use.

You should check with the council as soon as possible about your appeal rights as there are time limits for appealing.

We can also investigate complaints about from members of the public about the way the council has dealt with a complaint about a taxi driver or the driver of a private hire vehicle.  We can’t overrule the council’s decision on whether or not to take action if it has followed the right procedures in reaching a decision. But, if you believe the council did something wrong in the way it investigated a complaint about a driver and can also show that it caused you problems, then you can complain to us and we can investigate. Before doing so, we will also consider whether the problems you have been caused are sufficient to warrant an investigation.

Taxi drivers can also complain to us if they have been the subject of a complaint and they do not think the Council has followed the right procedures in reaching a decision.

How do I complain?

You should normally complain to the council first. Councils often have more than one stage in their complaints procedure and you will usually have to complete all stages before we will look at your complaint.

Then, if you are unhappy with the outcome, or the council is taking too long to look into the matter – we think 12 weeks is reasonable – you can complain to us.

Usually, you should complain to us within 12 months of when you first knew about the problem. If you leave it any later, we may not be able to help.

For more information on how to complain, please read our step by step process

If you can consider my complaint what will the Ombudsman look for?

We consider whether the council has done something wrong in the way it has dealt with the matter you complain about and, if so, what effect this had and what problems it has caused for you. Some faults we might find are that the council:

  • dismissed your complaint without carrying out a proper investigation
  • did not give a driver an opportunity to comment on an allegation before issuing a written warning
  • took too long to deal with an application for a licence
  • took too long to make a decision on fare increases, or
  • failed to consult properly before making a decision to increase licence fees.

What happens if the Ombudsman finds that the council was at fault?

It depends on the fault and what the consequences are for you. However, we may suggest that the council apologises for any failings. 

If the council has not investigated your complaint properly or has failed to consider evidence that it should have, we may suggest that the council reopens its own investigation with a view to rectifying any omissions.

Where a flawed investigation has resulted in a warning letter being issued, we may ask for the letter to be removed from a driver’s file.

We may also ask for a symbolic payment for the time, trouble or expense you have been put to in pursuing your complaint.

Where we find fault with the council’s procedures we will often recommend that the council introduces changes so that the same problem does not occur again in the future. 

Examples of some complaints we have considered

Mr X complained about how the council dealt with his taxi licence application. The council delayed in processing documentation Mr X provided in support of his application. It also failed to keep in touch with Mr X to explain the cause of the delay. We recommended the council apologise to Mr X and make a symbolic payment in recognition of the distress and frustration caused to him as a result.
Mr X complained the council suspended his taxi licence following an incident at a taxi rank. We did not investigate the complaint as Mr X had the right to appeal the council’s decision to magistrate’s court.
Ms B complained the council failed to investigate her concerns about the actions of a taxi driver or respond to her complaint. The council properly investigated the concerns but did not tell Ms B the outcome. That led Ms B to believe the council had not taken her concerns seriously. The council apologised to Ms B and changed its procedure to avoid a repeat.

Other sources of information

A range of Government guidance published by the Department of Transport can be found here: Licensing of taxis and PHVs for local authorities in England - GOV.UK ( This includes best practice guidance for local authorities and guidance on the rights of disabled passengers. 

Our fact sheets give some general information about the most common type of complaints we receive but they cannot cover every situation. If you are not sure whether we can look into your complaint, please contact us.

We provide a free, independent and impartial service. We consider complaints about the administrative actions of councils and some other authorities. We cannot question what a council has done simply because someone does not agree with it. If we find something has gone wrong, such as poor service, service failure, delay or bad advice and that a person has suffered as a result we aim to get it put right by recommending a suitable remedy.

March 2024

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