A BODY representing taxi drivers in Northumberland has slammed the county council over licence renewal delays.

The Northumberland Taxi and Private Hire Association (NTPHA) has claimed there have been delays of up to eight weeks, meaning some drivers have suffered from a significant loss of earnings while they wait for their new licence.

The council has defended the licensing team, arguing August is one of the busier times of the year due to additional applications relating to school transport.

A spokesman for the NTPHA said: “The council are currently running six to eight weeks behind with paperwork and taxi plates. One driver posted their paperwork in July and has still not received it back – it means we can’t work.

“Some drivers have been waiting up to ten weeks.

“The driver has to submit a paper licence to work with other firms, and is losing out on £1,500 a month. Our biggest fear is that this is a public safety issue.

“What the council’s licensing department has said is to send them the email of the insurance company and they will say that we have paid and are fully covered – but if there was something that went wrong, if a driver was in an accident and there was a fatality, where would their insurance stand? It is scary.

“The council need to get things in-house sorted as a matter of urgency. Drivers are losing money hand over fist.”

The association insisted it was not trying to “make trouble” and instead that it was trying to “help” the council by “holding it to account”.

In recent years the process has moved online, when previously licensing applications were done face-to-face. The association claims this took less than an hour.

Responding to the concerns, Councillor Gordon Stewart – the council’s cabinet member for communities – said: “We would refute any suggestion the taxi licensing department is understaffed and unorganised. There are currently five members in this team, not two, who have dealt with over 1,600 applications relating to taxi and private hire licensing over the last year.

“Like many services, the department has busier periods throughout the year, and August is one of these times with additional applications relating to school transport. However, we will always prioritise new applications and urgent business as we work to support the many taxi drivers who provide a great service to Northumberland residents.”