Thanet private hire operators raise concerns over safeguarding and the need to tackle unsustainable fall in drivers

Andrew Doody (Chair TPHA), Irfan Arif (United Cars, Karl Evans (Thanet Cars/Cab Call Centre, Rupert (Central Cars), Tiffany Stafford (Central Cars) at a meeting with Craig Mackinlay and licensing officers

Concerns about public safeguarding and “the thicket of bureaucracy” facing new drivers as they attempt to navigate licencing regulations have been raised by the Thanet Private Hire Association.

Issues were initially raised in a meeting with South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay and have now been highlighted with Thanet council once more ahead of a meeting to discuss possible changes to the knowledge test taken by drivers.

The TPHA wants to streamline the process of licensing new drivers with Thanet council because of a shortage of private hire drivers since the covid pandemic with most companies operating with just half the number of drivers they had three years ago.

“A drop of over 50% of both licensed vehicles and drivers”

Chairman Andy Doody, on behalf of TPHA, said: “The Covid pandemic and lockdown periods resulted in a drop of over 50% of both licensed vehicles and drivers. This has led to widespread complaints from the public to the firms as well as negative reports across press and social media platforms.

“All of the private hire operators, firms and the staff are and have been under pressure to cover work or to even take bookings.

“This has resulted in abuse to staff and in turn to drivers. This has affected the general public attempting to go about their daily lives, employees getting to their jobs, care workers and essential members of the NHS and the emergency services being unable to get to their places of work on time or home in a timely, safely manner.

“The school transport system, not just from the taxi services point of view but from parents and KCC tender’s department, is seriously affected too, leaving schools, children, and their parents/guardians very frustrated.

“There has been an enormously negative push back from the hospitality sector including hoteliers, publicans, restaurateurs, entertainment venues and concerned parents, youngsters and vulnerable members of the public wanting to get to and from home safely. This is especially at weekends and nights as this has historically been the busiest times.

“Since not only the pandemic and the problems that brought to us all but also since changes that were implemented by the licensing department, the numbers of drivers either new to the trade or renewing, has fallen at an unsustainable rate with the result being the continuing and frustratingly difficult communication from all the operators with the licensing department to find a solution.”

Safeguarding concerns

Mr Doody says there are concerns that drivers’ badges no longer include the name of the operator they work for, something he says could represent safeguarding dangers.

He said: “The council has started renewing drivers badges with no company that they work for named on them.

“Previously if there was a problem licensing knew where the driver was registered to work from. Now they’ll have no clue if there’s an emergency, accident or God forbid worse. They didn’t formally notify operators they were doing this.

“It’s an absolute recipe for disaster. My wife, daughters or friends could be picked up by a driver that’s ‘working’ for the taxi company I call so I know who to get in touch with if there’s a problem but drivers will be able to swap companies and (for instance) cover school runs for anyone that asks.

“I’ve asked on behalf of the Thanet Private Hire Association repeatedly over the last two plus years that licensed drivers and their cars must be clearly identifiable and that the licensing department should know what company every driver is registered to be at and regularly check with the various companies that they’re records are right but now they rely on the drivers to notify them.

“In mine and the operators -Thanet Cars,  Thanet Taxis, Central Cars and United Cars – opinions this is utter madness and totally unsafe for the public.”

Knowledge test

The TPHA say things like the knowledge test are “outdated and unnecessary” due to all companies and drivers have modern despatch systems and satellite navigation built into the drivers equipment which give directions to the pick-up point and customer information and the correct prices.

One of the solutions proposed is to have one practical test with a licensing officer or external locally licensed testers to check driving aptitude, English language, basic maths, highway code knowledge and a visual check of the vehicle.

Mr Doody said: “This would streamline the at present multi-step process solving many parts of the application in one appointment, just leaving the safeguarding, medical, tax, and DBS checks to be carried out beforehand. This type of process has been implemented in many other areas nationwide and led to the private hire and hackney services getting back to a healthy level for the needs of the community and creating a much-needed increase in revenue for the councils.”

He said a report published for the licensing meeting next week looks to “weigh in favour” of the TPHA requests although it doesn’t cover the safeguarding concerns.

Robust checks

Thanet council says there are robust checks in place to protect passenger safety and that most drivers are self-employed, so may work for more than one operator. The council adds that knowledge tests are necessary for tourism.

A spokesperson said: “We have a robust process in place to manage the accreditation of taxi drivers in our district. This is to protect the welfare of our residents.

“Most private hire drivers are self-employed and may work for one or more operators. We have removed the need for the operator name to be included on the badges that we issue. This means that drivers will no longer have to pay for the issue of a new badge if they change operators, and this is in line with the majority of other councils.

“Badges do show the driver’s name, a picture and their badge number however, and we ask drivers which operator they are going to work for and retain that information on our files.

“The knowledge test is held every fortnight, typically with up to 20 candidates, who are booked on to the next available test should they need to resit. DBS clearance can be applied for prior to taking the test and this is stated on our website.

“The knowledge test ensures that taxi drivers can give customers information about the local area, including places of interest and local attractions. This is an important part of our offer as a tourist destination.

“Ensuring that our residents are safe is a key council priority, and safeguarding is an important part of this. We have a duty to protect all of our residents and visitors.”

The content and cost of sitting the knowledge test will be discussed at a meeting of the Licensing Board on Tuesday 21 March.

Further information on the Knowledge Test is available at:


  1. I imagine if local PH firms drug tested their drivers, they’d have even less available drivers than they do now.

  2. i think that applys to a lot of the drivers on our roads , but a very fair point that i feel is often ignored

  3. To be told at 10.30 in the morning there are no taxis for a least an hour is ridiculous.

  4. Going by the state of some PH cars I’m surprised their cars pass their 6 monthly mot’s

    Think some PH cars havent been washed in decades, the driving standard is poor, indicators never work. And most cars are very old.

  5. Also

    Personally I think a knowledge test should be harder. Cars should be no older than 6 years old. Cars should be washed at least once a week.

    I would stop the drivers from smoking in their cabs. I thought smoking in the work place was illegal.

    I would make them take a tougher driving test as some many have no idea how to drive at roundabouts etc.

    There are some very good PH drivers with great modern cars but most arent.

    • I take it you’re going to be paying for us to have a new car every 6 years then? Thanet has one of the cheapest rate in the whole country you you think the answer is PH drivers have to pay £400+ a month just so you can go in a new car? Everyone is moaning about the level of drivers now, so imagine the level when we have to replace our car every 6 years. I promise it will go from an hour wait to a two hour wait, mark my words.

  6. Whilst I agree with a more regimented process for entry including non-smoking drivers, newer cars and hi-tech app booking, it would simply mean pricing out current operators though it could foster a new breed of conscientious cabbie.

    Currently none of the incumbent operators are up to scratch, mainly because it is a free-for-all system with few controls and commitments; add in no obligations to a minimum service guarantee and lackadaisical drivers. Yes, I noticed too; taxi companies in Thanet are so 1995.

    Out of all the current operators grinding through their mediocre service offering, not one wants to modernise fleets or reach for the skies in quality and provision. Sad.

    Too many people on this corner in the country lack aspiration, and seek solace in a “race to bottom” mindset that is just good enough for them but no-one else.

  7. Stevie Wonder


    When you consider PH cars carry the most precious things to us, our family members.

    I am older enough to remember PH company that only had Volvo’s cars and not old cars.

    Like you say it’s now a race to the bottom !

  8. Aaron

    Personally yes lol you would charge your customers to cover your new car.

    You carry the most important thing to people our family members.

    I don’t understand why your driving level isnt higher than the ordinary public. You just have a bog standard licence for carry such a valuable passenger.

    I am HGV 1 and the standard of cab driving in thanet is poor.

    I dont think your argument of have new safe cars is the cost is an argument! I personally would expect to be carried in a nice modern car. Not at decade old banger.

    Its interesting that you put cost before lives. Canterbury doesnt have bangers for cabs.

    We are told that thanet is on the up, house prices very , lots of high end cars etc. Yet our PH cars arent great.

    • Of course cost doesn’t come before lives. You’ve taken what I’ve said out of context, yes Canterbury have modern cars and have to because there is a lot more work and the prices are higher so its achievable. I know several drivers with cars 8-15 years old that are still maintained to a high standard and the insides are immaculate, unfortunately there are some drivers in thanet that do not take pride in their car and they are filthy, which is not acceptable. Since covid thanet has lost around 700 drivers, and i will say it again if they bring in an age restriction on the cars they will lose at least half of the drivers that are still active. When i started i had a brand new car and it was the worst move i could’ve made. Why pay all that money out for the lovely people of thanet to just ruin it? And good luck trying to get the cost of any damage to the car out of them, especially as there’s nothing you can do to make them pay. Cars should be clean and kept maintained but the age shouldn’t come into it in my opinion. This is why we have an mot and two compliance tests every year. So the cars are safe to drive and be use for passengers transport. I do get what you’re saying but everyone moaned about the prices going up when the fuel shot up in price, imagine the uproar when people have to pay closer to £3 extra on each fare just so we can have new cars.

      • Aaron

        In my second post not all PH drivers are bad.
        You should like a good one.

        But TDC allow some terrible PH on thanet roads, dirty old cars, poor driving standards.

        I understand your cars tested twice a year, you are spotted check to make sure your car is up to spec.

        Yet so many PH cars slip thought TDC net, havent been washed in months, dents and scratches. And to that poor driving.

        Perhaps TDC need to up their game and weed out the poor couldnt careless PH

        • I couldn’t agree more. Some drivers don’t have a clue where they’re going even though all the operating apps have navigation on them, and I’ve seen the licencing department fail cars on a scratch so how some of them slip through the cracks i have no idea. I personally would love to have a new car every 6 years but the overheads you have to pay on top of the cheap fares are ridiculous. That why so many drivers went to places like amazon or just eat. Hardly anything to pay out for and the money is there if you put the work in.

          • Aaron

            I know a few PH drivers and they say the same as you.

            Their cars are inspected regularly and one told me that during a snowy period TDC took him of the road because the outside of his car was dirty !

            He couldnt understand how other cars which were dirty, older, dents and scratches were never taken of the road. TDC turn a blind eye to some PH cars for some reason.

            I have heard of PH buying brand new cars the same spec as Canterbury council only for TDC to say the new car cant be used as its 2cm to small on the inside. TDC actively stopping brand new cars that are ok for CTC being used by thanet HP.

            I think the main problem is TDC havent been fair with they inspections and have allowed the standards of alot of cars and drivers to drop.

            The last time I got a cab I guess about a decade ago. I had to give the PH driver the directions !! Than he expected a bloody tip, I gave him a tip not money but told him to learn the area.

            Nowadays when we go out we take it in turns to be the driver. We got so feed up with the state cars and drivers.

  9. The comments above sum up nicely the state of thanets ph cabs and drivers. To add to the list,

    The practice of saying you’ll get a cab “as soon as possible” which actually means if and when they can get a driver to take the job. The days of their being a queue sytem and a rough idea of the time you could expect it to arrive are long gone. The service overall is terrible. Which is why some of the local restaurants have “friends” who pretend to be cab drivers.
    On the standard of driving , i’d be surprised if some of the drivers have been issued a licence by tdc.

  10. Ad a PH driver I’d like to give some broad figures about doing the job.
    I drive a nice 2017 plate car.
    I do about 1,000 miles a week.
    Buying my car £300 pcm
    Insurance £120 pcm
    Circuit fees £480 pcm
    Servicing £120 pcm
    Fuel £600 – £700 pcm
    Tyres, valeting, veh8cle depreciation….
    Last tax year I turned over £42k
    My income after expenses was £16k.
    Thanet fares are among the lowest in the country, because we are a deprived area, apparently.
    Unfortunately no one told the vehicle manufacturers, the fuel companies or the insuranc3 industries.
    User charge their drivers about 10% commission.
    To be comparable, a Thanet drier would need to take around £1200 per week. That’s a lot of £4.50 fares.
    Pre Covid it was very hard to make a living
    There were 600 PH drivers and 150 Hackney (and most of the Hackney drivers were working for PH operators).
    Post Covid there is more work per driver but you have to do a hell of a lot of hours to make it pay.
    Part time drivers are a thing of the past,
    In a nutshell – fares need to rise, 8n line with Canterbury and surrounding counc8ls. Then you might get some more drivers.
    It’s a job, not a vocation.

    • Uber =25% taken at source, fares you get offered is what you keep, if Uber ever turned up in Thanet it would put the local cab firms out of business over night, sadly never going to happen though.

      • If UBER got an operators licence for Thanet, they would have to use TDC licenced drivers, who would have to work for even less than they do now. – Cant see that happening.

  11. Are you sure about that? Friday Saturday night 2x boost when cabs are busy while local firms are taking fixed fares with hour plus waits

  12. I think the council should increase the number of public hire plates, would certainly increase the number of trips for the drivers with less wasted miles.

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