Taxi passengers set to pay more if licence fees go up

Drivers and office staff from Melton taxi firms Freddy's Cabs, Lee's Taxis, Elaine's Taxis and Mark's Cabs protest at the Sherrard Street rank against council plans to hike their operating licence fees EMN-150109-161257001
Drivers and office staff from Melton taxi firms Freddy's Cabs, Lee's Taxis, Elaine's Taxis and Mark's Cabs protest at the Sherrard Street rank against council plans to hike their operating licence fees EMN-150109-161257001
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Customers who use Melton taxis will pay more for their fares from today if borough councillors went ahead last night with their plan to increase licensing fees for cabbies by 25 per cent.

Taxi firms said they would have to reluctantly pass on the extra cost of licensing drivers and vehicles and for operating as cab companies to their passengers.

The Rural, Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee was last night (Wednesday) due to vote on the recommended hike.

Members approved the increases in June but they were due to consider objections by cab firms about the scale of the proposed licence increases.

Council officials say the rise is neccesary to help recover more of the cost of issuing licences - the new fees would pay for 71 per cent of the cost compared to 51 per cent for the prices charged in 2014, they say.

But taxi drivers say the methods used for calculating the increases are flawed and the council should carry out a more accurate study before deciding how much extra to charge them.

Mark Faulkner, who drives for Elaine’s Taxis, said: “This would be the third year running the council has increased our licence fees by 25 per cent.

“Our fares don’t go up by that much every year so it is a lot of money we have to keep finding.

“If the increase goes ahead then fares will have to go up for the general public.

“Fare increases wouldn’t be 25 per cent but they would have to be a lot higher than they are now.”

Mr Faulkner said the extra costs would mean his company would no longer be able to run its private hire vehicles, which are often pre-booked by passengers living in rural areas.

They would continue operating mini cabs charging higher fares to customers, he said.

Lee Franklin, of Lee’s Taxis, said: “The council must think we make a fortune from driving taxis - they must think we are millionaires to charge this much for our licences.

“They need to look at it again.”

Melton Mowbray Taxi Drivers Association said it would consider protesting to the district auditor if the proposed licence fee hikes were approved.

It said in a statement: “It is our opinion that no increase in fees should be permitted until a proper independent time and motion study, including a proper set of procedures to follow, has been carried out.”

The new annual charges for cabbies would see every driver pay £138 for a licence and firms would have to pay £252.50 for every cab they run and £350 to operate as a taxi company in the borough.

A council report which went before committee members last night stated that it cost the authority £47,000 to process licences for taxi firms last year but the income from the licences only amounted to £24,000, meaning the taxpayer had to pay the remaining 49 per cent cost of carrying out the work. It had used 2013 figures to calculate licence increases because costs hadn’t changed significantly.