Private hire operators' licences

Private hire operator's licences are required by individuals or firms taking bookings for the hire of private hire vehicles.

The law requires an operator to be licensed by the same authority which licenses the private hire vehicles and private hire drivers working within their control, thus a vehicle licensed by one authority can only ever be driven by a driver licensed by that same authority; both must be subject to the control of an operator licensed by that same authority.

Section 56(1) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 makes it clear that bookings for the services of licensed vehicles are the responsibility of the licensed operator which accepted the booking, even if they are sub-contracted to another operator; from 1 October 2015 the legislation has been amended to permit the operator accepting a booking to sub-contract it to any other operator, wherever they are based, but the liability for the provision of those services remains with the original operator. In this case, the second operator, the vehicle fulfilling that booking and the driver of that vehicle must all be licensed by the same (second) authority.

Private hire vehicles may only be pre-booked, and may not be hailed in the street or stand and ply for hire. Fares for the hire of private hire vehicles are not regulated by the city council, and must be the subject of agreement between passenger and driver before a journey commences. Such vehicles may only be driven by the holder of a private hire driver's licence issued by the city council.

The licence conditions require the front doors of licensed private hire vehicles to to be clearly marked with a prescribed adhesive sign indicating that the vehicle is licensed. If they display additional advertising displaying an operator, they then can only accept bookings from that one operator. Magnetic signs are not acceptable under any circumstances. The vehicle also has a white and blue licence plate on the rear, the details of which are reproduced on a sticker in the windscreen. No Southampton licensed private hire vehicle may have a roof sign of any description and must be of a colour other than white.

Apply for a licence

It is council policy for operators to provide a DBS certificate to demonstrate they are fit and proper to hold such licences and for the operator to have a policy to address how they will deal with employing ex-offenders recognising those with a conviction for offences provided in the councils policy on previous convictions, other than those relating to driving matters, may not be suitable to have access to such data.

They also should have a policy for reporting customer complaints and incidents in particular circumstances. Details of this can be found in the Operator Conditions in our policy.

Application forms and guidance are available, including a form to notify the change of address of the licence holder - please note that the operator's licence cannot be transferred to a different licence holder; a new application may have to be made if the operating address changes.

You are strongly advised to seek the advice of the licensing team before completing the licence application form.

The council has adopted a taxi policy. Appendix 5 of that policy details the policy and conditions for private hire operator licences, including a requirement for at least a basic DBS check of all those named on the licence to be supplied.

Tax Checks

From 4 April 2022 all renewing drivers and operators will have to undergo a tax check with the HMRC. Further guidance can be found on GOV.UK.

Data Protection

Please note that the licensing authority may be required by law to disclose to the appropriate authorities, from time to time, further information relating to applications and licences for the purposes of law enforcement and the prevention of fraud.