Ramin Pahlavan, of United Radio Cars, with a petition protesting against the new licence fee increase
PETITIONS are being compiled by Swindon’s minicab industry in opposition to new licence fee proposals which will increase by as much as 80 per cent.
Swindon Borough Council wants to bump up fees across the board for businesses and drivers in order to meet the costs of operating the cab licensing service, which currently operates at a loss.
But the town’s private hire minicab firms are concerned the new fees will hit their businesses hard and see more drivers out of work in the long term.
Ramin Pahlavan, a co-owner at United Radio Cars in Transfer Bridge Industrial Estate, said: “You expect things to go up, but inflation is not going up much.
“You expect things to go up because of the costs the Government expects the local authority to pay. But these increases, from what I have heard, are ridiculously high.
“The increases just don’t go with anything else happening around this country. We will be in touch with the council ourselves to find out the details. All the drivers and operators are very upset.”
Mr Pahlavan went as far as to say some drivers will see even more benefit in being out of work altogether, such is the rise in costs of running a taxi in Swindon.
“They will reduce the driver’s earnings,” he said.
“People will need to look at it and see if it’s worthwhile still being a taxi driver. In some cases they will see it’s not worth being employed and can get more out of benefits.”
Among the proposed increases, the largest jump is for those drivers wishing to sit the Knowledge test, who would fork out £50 for their first attempt, as opposed to £30 as it is now.
Those existing drivers looking to renew their minicab licences would be required to pay out 56 per cent more, at £70 rather than £45.50.
Operators like United, including V Cars, Cross Street Cars and SN1 Cars, which service more than 20 vehicles, will now be needed to fork out £450 for a licence, up from £309 in 2014/15.
Among the new costs, which have been created from scratch, a set of insurance stickers to attach to the window, cost £10 for each set.
Those companies which own the vehicles loaned out to the drivers will also be hit in the pocket by the proposals.
Private Hire Rental and CMH Car Hire own approximately 150 cars between them. They would need to pay out £200 to licence each of their vehicles, as opposed to £161 as it currently stands.
Steve Waggott, of Private Hire, said: “I just felt they were exorbitant.
“I have looked at the Government guidelines for this and it just feels as though the council has taken no notice of what they suggest, when proposing these huge increases.
“It’s certainly going to restrict the rate of new drivers coming in. It was already struggling as it is. In fact the number has gone down over the last five or six years.”
A council spokesman said: “The proposed increases are designed to prevent the taxi licensing service from operating at a loss, because at present the fees charged do not reflect the cost of providing the service.
“We have compared the proposed new fees against what other councils across the country charge, and they will be in line with the average amount.
“We raised these proposed increases with the taxi trade at the last two taxi forum meetings and they had no serious objections, and we invited them to come back to us before we published them, but they did not.
“If they come back within the 28-day period with representations, then the proposals will go back before the elected members of the cabinet who will consider any comments made before making a final decision.”
To see the proposals in full click here
The main difference between Hackney carriages and private hire vehicles is the former can be flagged down in the street or may be hired from a taxi rank. Private hire vehicles must be pre-booked through a licensed operator.
• Driver’s licence – first application: £75 (2014/15); £100 (proposed 2015/16); 25 per cent increase.
• Driver’s licence – renewal: £45.50; £70; 56 per cent increase
• Knowledge test: £30; £50; 80 per cent increase
• Hackney carriage vehicle licence: £161; £200; 23 per cent increase
• Private hire vehicle licence: £161; £200; 23 per cent increase.
• Operators’ licence – 20-plus vehicles: £309; £450; 47 per cent increase.