Melton borough councillor quits over taxi licence fee report ‘errors’

Former Conservative Melton borough councillor for the Egerton ward Peter Faulkner EMN-160121-160911001

Former Conservative Melton borough councillor for the Egerton ward Peter Faulkner EMN-160121-160911001

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A newly-elected Conservative Melton borough councillor has quit after claiming reports to councillors over taxi licence fee rises contained inaccuracies.

Peter Faulkner, who has worked as a licensed taxi driver since 2001, was elected in May to represent Melton’s Egerton ward.

His resignation comes after protests made by taxi drivers over how the council made its calculations before agreeing a 25 per cent increase for taxi licences last year.

The authority claimed its calculations were ‘reasonable’ following its analysis of costs, adding the new fees would only recover 73 per cent of its costs in providing licences.

Following an objection to the proposed fee hike from the Taxi Association, Melton Council’s rural, economic and environmental affairs committee met last Wednesday to consider the objections raised. The committee agreed to stick to its previous decision to increase taxi licence fees by 25 per cent with effect from January 18 this year.

It also agreed a draft hackney carriage and private hire licensing policy, subject to slight amendments, prior to formal consultation. The results of the consultation will be reported back to a future meeting of the committee for it to decide whether adopt the policy, with or without further amendments.

Mr Faulkner submitted his written resignation ahead of the committee’s January 13 meeting.

Speaking to the Melton Times this week he said: “The drivers asked the council to carry out a time and motion study to determine how long was spent on processing each application.

“However, the drivers considered this wasn’t done correctly. What seems to me to have taken place is officers just recorded the time they say they spent working on taxi licences without detailing any other work or licences they were working on. There doesn’t appear to be any procedures to follow and there was no independent verification of the process. Other councils can carry out the same processes in less than half the time it takes Melton Council.

“Things came to a head when it was again noticed that the report to councillors, following further objections, still contained errors.

“I thought one of a councillor’s jobs was to make sure information in reports is correct but it seems this isn’t the case.

“The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I was asked to use my influence with the drivers to stop the objections because ‘it is only a few pounds’.

“It’s a matter of principle. I can’t be part of a council that does not appear to value accuracy within reports. I felt errors were being allowed to get through and I couldn’t stand by and let that happen.

“I was really enjoying the rest of the work I was doing with the council so it was a difficult decision but for my own peace of mind I had no choice but to resign.”

A Melton Council spokesperson said: “The council has been in correspondence over an extended period with the Taxi Association on this matter to try to resolve differences of opinion.

“The association wanted us to adopt a new approach to calculating the fees. As a result we have agreed for the future to use different time recording and accountancy methods that have been suggested by the association, rather than our previous systems.

“We considered the objections received, which included the detailed concerns raised by the association. When making its decision on the fee increase, the committee debated the issues raised as well as the requirement to recover costs.”

Mary-Anne Donovan, chairman of the Rutland and Melton Conservative Association, said: “We respect Peter’s decision to resign but are sorry he chose to do so. Our association has valued Peter as a member, supported his election and thank him for his service as a councillor. We’ll now be moving on to select a candidate for the forthcoming by-election.”