‘Extortionate’ licence fees for private hire car drivers

The fee rise comes after a review of charges associated with private hire cars in response to new government legislation.

Under the new system, vehicle licence fees will decrease, but drivers will face paying up to 33 per cent more for a yearly licence.

Manager of Starline Minicabs Malcolm Cannon branded the new fees ‘extortionate’ in a formal objection to the proposals.

He wrote: “As someone who has held a Chichester District Council licence for 28 years, I find this completely unacceptable and will certainly have to consider carefully whether to renew if these huge hikes are implemented. Personally, it looks as though drivers are paying for the reductions given to vehicle operators.”

The cost of renewing a private hire driver’s licence for one year will rise from £85 to £113 effective from May 23.

Drivers can also apply for a three-year licence that costs £285 to renew, an increase of £10 a year.

Cllr Paul Jarvis commented that considered in the face of six-years’ worth of inflation since the last review, the change in fees was a relatively ‘insignificant amount’.

He added that officers had ‘done the best job they could’, adding: “At the end of the day, if they get it wrong, all they simply do is re-adjust these numbers in the future. I think this is perfectly reasonable and fair, and we have to let it run for a certain period.”

A total of nine formal objections to the fee rise were acknowledged from individuals and groups of the 320 drivers licensed with the council. Many comments focussed on the difference in three-year and one-year fees, which officers attributed to admin costs already covered in an application.

At the start of the meeting, chairman Cllr John Ridd said: “When it comes to fees, we are talking about people’s livelihoods, and perhaps not the most well-to-do in our society, but hard working people, for whom every penny counts.”

He went on to add: “We are concerned that the service does continue, as we hope, without disadvantaging any members.”

The fee changes were passed with an agreement to review the fees after one year.

Read more: http://www.chichester.co.uk/

Nuneaton and Bedworth taxi drivers fume over 276 per cent charge rise

FUMING taxi drivers across Nuneaton and Bedworth say they have been hit by a ‘staggering’ 276 per cent rise in charges over the past three years.

Incensed by the latest increase by Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, they have written to the Town Hall to object.

It was known that the borough council in its budget setting chose to increase fees and charges across the board but the new taxi driver charge is a step too far according to the Nuneaton and Bedworth Taxi Proprietors Association.

The chair of the association has sent two emails to the local authority to contest the latest rise.

In the first it suggests that the association has, for some time, been seeking a meeting to discuss a request to increase the amount that taxi users have to pay – to no avail.

“As you know we have been requesting a fare rise and would like an emergency meeting to once again try and achieve this objective, especially in the light of the percentage rises being applied to our industry in both fees and wages,” the email states.

In the second email it said: “Our association would like to object to the rise in charges for drivers and vehicles.

“The percentage rise equals a staggering 276 per cent in drivers fees, which seems inexplicable over three years when there has been no change in actual working practices.

“The rise in vehicles we understand more because of increase costs in maintenance wages etc, but unfortunately we have not been allowed to react to ours as unlike yourselves we cannot just increase our charges.”

According to a report, due to be put before the council’s cabinet tonight, the new licence fee for new driver applications has been set at £294 – £94 more than the fee in 2015/16.

The new renewal fees for drivers is £246, which is £46 more than last year’s fee.

Vehicle licence applications are to rise from £154 to £188.

But, according to council officers, the new charges still make the local authority one of the cheapest in the area.

In the report it states:

“The largest increase is in relation to the new driver applications and has resulted in an increase of 38 per cent, equating to a new weekly cost for a hackney carriage/private hire driver licence of £2.70.

“During budget setting for 2015/16, and following a review of the calculation of the costs for the services it became apparent that the council was not recovering the costs of this part of the licensing service, as more officer time was being spent on this area of work due to local demand and national changes. This was addressed through fee increases, last year generating an additional £40,000, and an estimated £30,000 this year.

“Even with the current fee increases it would appear that the fees will be reasonably comparable with other local authorities within the area.”

Read more: http://www.nuneaton-news.co.uk/

Taxi firms in Moray could be stung as council prepares for licence fee hike

A taxi firm boss fears business could go to the wall if Moray Council raises the cost of operating licences.

The local authority has launched a consultation on a possible increase in fees for running cabs.

Rod McLennan, owner of C&R Taxis, said: “Every increase in the cost of licences to keep the cars on the road makes it harder all the time to stay in front of things.

“I realise that through inflation the prices are going to go up. Sometimes the council puts it up by more than the cost of inflation, which makes it harder again.”

Increased taxi licence charges may only be the start as Moray Council is planning similar consultations about other licences it issues.

Until fares can be increased, operators would have to carry the burden of any extra costs.

Mr McLennan said: “We can’t charge more than what’s on the meter, which is also agreed with the council. Strictly speaking, we can’t pass on the increased costs to customers until the fares are reviewed again in August.”

Moray Council has stressed that it does not make a profit from managing the licence applications it handles throughout the year.

Licensing committee chairman Councillor Gordon Cowie said: “The revised fees reflect as accurately as possible the amount of staff time and fixed costs involved in processing licence applications.

“It is only fair that the full cost of operating the licensing system is recovered by the council, otherwise council tax payers are effectively subsidising each and every licence that we issue.

“It is also important that there is full cost recovery at a time when the council is faced with unprecedented budget cuts while trying to protect frontline services.”

The council’s consultation will close on May 27 and the results will be reported to councillors at the end of June.

source: https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/

District council fails to notify taxi drivers of meeting to discuss proposed increase in fees

OBJECTIONS to a rise in the fees charged to operate taxis in South Somerset will not be considered until later this month after an administrative error resulted in the district council failing to notify cabbies of the meeting.

The district council’s licencing committee was due to meet today to discuss a series of concerns raised by taxi drivers after it was announced that vehicle fees would be hiked.

But after complaints from taxi companies that they had not been told that the meeting was taking place, the discussion was deferred until April 26.

Crewkerne-based Roger Woodland, owner of CR Taxis, was one of those that the district council failed to inform.

He said: “I received a telephone call at 5.40pm on Monday from a fellow taxi operator based in Yeovil, who told me that by chance, he had noticed on the district council’s website that there was to be an open meeting at 10am on Tuesday.

“The meeting was to discuss the proposed license fee increases, objections received, my letter of objection and, the proposal for taxi fare increases, but I guess this was another of those meetings open to the public that the public doesn’t actually know about.

“I would have thought that if the objections to the proposal were to be discussed, then those opposing would be given the opportunity to attend the meeting, prepare their case and, put forward their reasoning behind their objections.

“As I was only made aware of this the night before due to other work commitments, I am unable to attend the meeting tomorrow.

“I am somewhat surprised that the council did not have the decency to at least advise us the objectors that this meeting was taking place.”

In changes due to come into effect later this year, South Somerset District Council has increased the cost of a one-year badge for hackney and private hire drivers to £160, up from £53.

A three-year badge has gone up from £80 to £260, while a three-year private operators licence now costs £820, having previously cost just £85.

Meanwhile, the amount to be paid for operating a hackney vehicle has increased from £225 to £245, while an exam for taxi drivers’, known as The Knowledge, will now set candidates back £25, having previously been free.

Not all rates have been increased, however, with the rate for running a private hire vehicle down from £225 to £220.

A spokesman for South Somerset District Council said: “Due to an administrative error, those who wrote to the district council objecting to the increased taxi license fee were unfortunately not sent a copy of the licensing committee meeting agenda.

“Making note of the error, the item was not discussed at the meeting today and the licensing manager had the item deferred until the April 26 meeting, when objectors will receive a copy of the meeting’s agenda in advance.

“Once the licensing committee agreed the fees and charges for 2016/17, they were recommended to full council as part of the budget setting process.

“A note was published in the Western Gazette, in accordance with legislative requirements, which stated the proposed fees, and any objections which were received, but not withdrawn, were to be considered at Licensing Committee on Tuesday, April 12.

“Once these objections are considered, the council can either modify the fees in light of the objections or decide that the fees as originally proposed are to come into effect on a date to be specified, within two months of the original date.”

Read more: http://www.westerngazette.co.uk/

Hike in taxi fees is ‘outrageous’

Proposed increases to taxi and private hire vehicle licence fees in Babergh have been branded as outrageous by the owner of a Sudbury firm.

Sean Fox, of Fox Cars based in East Street, has written to the council objecting to a proposal from Babergh District Council to increase licensing fees, which have not seen changes in six years.

He said the proposed hike to private hire vehicle fees in particular represented a 26 per cent fee rise.

In a letter, Mr Fox told council officers: “The increase in renewals of a private hire vehicle licence from £266 a year to £334 is outrageous.

“We should be supported, not penalised, for trying to offer a competitive and reliable service in this area.”

Mr Fox also questioned why licences cost more in the Babergh area rather than Mid Suffolk – especially when the two district councils were sharing some services to save money.

He also criticised the introduction of a proposed ‘knowledge test’ for drivers.

He added: “How is this going to help? How much is the resit fee, and is this really necessary?”

His comments were part of a consultation the council carried out after fees increases were mooted at a council meeting in February.

The proposals will come before Babergh’s Regulatory Committee tomorrow, Friday, with a recommendation for approval to come into effect in the next two months.

Council official Lee Carvell said: “It will be an operational decision for each operator proprietor whether any fee increases are, in due course, passed on to customers or contract providers in terms of higher fares. The hackney carriage fare maximum tariff has not increased since 2010.”

Jacqui Lawrence, company manager for Sudbury Town Taxis, also responded to the consultation.

She said: “I feel the fee increase is quite high, both for drivers and operators.

“The increase will only damage the bigger companies who have much higher overheads than the smaller ones, as the paperwork for the operator’s licence is the same whether there is one car or 10 cars in the fleet.”

Read more: http://www.suffolkfreepress.co.uk/

Taxi drivers and operators in Middlesbrough will be reimbursed after four years of “overcharging”

NEARLY £700,000 looks set to be paid back by Middlesbrough Council to Teesside taxi owners and operators after several years of overcharging for licences.

The potential refunds on the cost of the licences follows a decision by the Local Government Ombudsman and covers the four years from 2012/13 to 2015/16.

The plan, which will be considered at a council meeting on Wednesday, March 30, follows a review of the administration of taxi licensing in the town.

The council apologised to Teesside’s largest taxi company, Boro Taxis, after it was reprimanded by the ombudsman. Christine Bell, the taxi firm’s company secretary had made a complaint about the way fees were calculated.

Just over half of the reimbursement will be covered by council reserves, while the rest will be paid out from a surplus within the existing taxi licensing budget.

At the root of the over-charging was the Council’s ‘cross-subsidy’ approach to drivers’ fees, in which increases in fees to vehicle proprietors and private hire operators were used to off-set the fees payable by drivers.

But earlier this year, after the ombudsman decision, the council changed its fee structure and work was undertaken to establish how much money needed to be paid back to operators.

Councillor Julia Rostron, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Adult Health and Social Care, said: “Our approach to taxi licensing for many years has been similar those of authorities up and down the country.

“Our aim has always been to be fair and even-handed, while offering an effective and responsive service.

“We have always endeavoured to support drivers as many are of limited means, but now accept that this approach could not be legally justified.

“However we will not seek to claw back any of the driver under-payments, particularly as the recent review has resulted in a significant increase in their licence fees.”

source: http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/

Tunbridge Wells taxi drivers in outcry over council fees hike

TUNBRIDGE Wells taxi drivers have criticised a hike in fees voted through by council bosses this week.

At the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council licensing committee meeting on Wednesday, members unanimously approved increasing the fees and costs for licences for hackney carriage drivers and private hire vehicles.

A report put before councillors emphasised the service needed to become self-financing as the authority is facing severe budget cuts from the Government.

Committee chairman Bob Backhouse said: “I do not think these fees are exorbitant or awful by any stretch of the imagination.

“I think we are talking about a 40p-a-week increase for the drivers.”

Tom Dawlings stressed the authority was “not trying to make a profit” from drivers as the council sought to minimise costs.

But many taxi firms across the borough are nonplussed by the new charges, which they say increase on a yearly basis, even after significant efficiency costs have been made.

Michelle Blyth, owner of Walkers Cars, based in Tunbridge Wells, said: “They do seem to put up the prices every year and we would really like them to justify it.

“They have combined three departments together at Sevenoaks so there is less staff, and I do not understand why they keep putting up prices.”

Mrs Blyth said it cost a lot of money to be a taxi driver now, particularly with insurance premiums also increasing.

Consultation responses from drivers and operators expressed anger at the continued increases. Anita Meekins, of Anita Meekins Private Hire based in Iden Green, near Benenden, slammed the hike as “quite outrageous”.

“I believe you take advantage of those people who are honest with you and think it’s time the council started helping licensed drivers and operators,” she added. Not all companies were as upset by the increase, however.

Ron Parker, director at Streamline which operates across west Kent, said the “inevitable increases were expected” but raised concerns over delays currently experienced by people applying for licences.

Read more: http://www.courier.co.uk/

Crewkerne taxi firm owner hits out at district council after rise in fees

Taxi driver Roger Woodland is unhappy at the way in which South Somerset District Council has handled the increase of rates for drivers.

The Western Gazette reports that the owner of a Crewkerne taxi company fears firms could be put out of business after the district council hiked vehicle fees.

South Somerset District Council has increased the cost of a one-year badge for hackney and private hire drivers to £160, up from £53. A three-year badge has gone up from £80 to £260, while a three-year private operators licence now costs £820, having previously cost just £85.

Meanwhile, the amount to be paid for operating a hackney vehicle has increased from £225 to £245, while an exam for taxi drivers’, known as The Knowledge, will now set you back £25 having previously been free.

Not all rates have been increased, however, with the rate for running a private hire vehicle down from £225 to £220.

Roger Woodland, owner of CR Taxis, said: “If this situation continues and SSDC continues to increase our licensing fees, there could be a significant number of operators going out of business.

“This will impact the services that are available to the public, will increase unemployment figures in the area and, rather than increase revenue return to the council, will have an adverse effect.

“We aim to provide a valuable service to the community and with a decrease in public service transport our services are in a lot of cases a necessity, particularly for the older generation. In order for us to remain in business and to be able to continue to be an asset to our community, we need to remain profitable.

“Comparing fees set by West Dorset Council, SSDC’s rates are a great deal higher. I find it difficult to understand how one council’s rates can differ so much from another, particularly when SSDC has a high number of licensed vehicles in its area.”

Mr Woodland also criticised the way that the change in fees was announced by the district council, claiming that the increases were published by the Western Gazette before the council told taxi firms themselves.

He added: “Recently when there was an issue regarding some taxis refusing to take fares from Neo nightclub in Yeovil, a blanket letter was sent to all licensed drivers in the area at significant cost to the council.

“These letters were even sent to private hire drivers, who would not be affected by such an incident, which was in my view a waste of money on the behalf of SSDC, but on a matter that is going to severely impact every driver in the area, they have decided to sneak it in within the Public Notices section of the Western Gazette.

“I believe this is an unfair way in which to put this across to its license holders. SSDC is assuming that every driver or operator within the area will actually see or read the notification. There has in my opinion been no consultation whatsoever on the matter.

“It is my belief that these changes are trying to be pushed through unopposed.”

The Western Gazette has contacted South Somerset District Council for a response.

Read more: http://www.westerngazette.co.uk/

Cab drivers label council refund system “unrealistic” after administrative blunder

A TAXI operator says the system Colchester Council has put in place for cabbies to claim refunds is “unrealistic”.

In July, the council admitted it owed more than £200,000 to drivers after unlawfully increasing operators’ fees for the last six years.

Now licensing bosses are asking drivers and operators to produce paperwork for every individual licence they have received in that time in order to get a refund.

Christie Wettasinghe, who runs Hawaii Five-O cab firm, criticised the council for making it too difficult to claim back what money cabbies are owed.

“The council is being unrealistic in what it is asking us to provide,” said Mr Wettasinghe.

“The reality is there are drivers who are going to be missing out because, firstly, they don’t know they are entitled to it, or they don’t know how to claim the money back.

“We have lost by the looks of things.”

Money is owed to drivers because Colchester Council did not properly advertise the increase in licence fees.

If drivers believe they are due a refund, they must fill in one claim form for each vehicle or operator licence.

Mr Wettasinghe added: “The council has its own records, it will know who is owed what, in exactly the same way the Inland Revenue know if you have paid too much or too little tax.

“You don’t have to chase that, you just get a cheque in the mail.”

A Colchester Council spokeswoman said: “The council have been working closely with representatives of the Colchester Hackney Carriage Association and the Private Hire Vehicle trade to agree the process by which the refunds due will be repaid.”

The £200,000 will be shared between the borough’s 1,390 licensed drivers.

Each should receive at least £150.

source: http://www.chelmsfordweeklynews.co.uk/

Telford taxi drivers prepare to fight rise in fees

Taxi drivers in Telford are planning to call in auditors after it was revealed licence fees look set to increase – just 18 months after a similar rise.

Licensing chiefs at Telford & Wrekin Council have recommended a rise in fees which will see driver’s pay an extra £15 for a six month licence, from £90 to £105, or an extra £22 for a 12 month licence, rising from £148 to £170.

But if the changes do go ahead one consultant acting on behalf of taxi firms in the town has pledged to call in the Audit Commission to look through the authority’s accounts as part of a legal challenge.

The council’s licensing committee will meet on Wednesday when the hike is expected to be approved.

Last year’s rise in fees saw hundreds of drivers move their contracts from Telford & Wrekin Council to Shropshire Council, who charged less for a licence.

A consultant representing private hire operators County Cars, Diamond Cars and Ultimate Taxis, said: “By law a council may not intentionally charge more than the costs of undertaking certain aspects of taxi licensing.

“If Telford & Wrekin Council proceed to set the fees as recommended, my clients intend to challenge the lawfulness of those charges by asking the Audit Commission to direct an auditor to conduct an extraordinary audit of the council’s accounts.”

Abid Tawasin, secretary of Telford Hackney Carriage Association, said: “We have to pay because the others have gone to Shropshire. But those drivers are still coming to Telford to take fares and nothing is being done about it.”

Councillor Clive Mason, chairman of Telford & Wrekin’s licensing committee added a review of council processes later this year could mean a reduction in costs, which he said would be passed on to drivers.

If approved, the increase will come into force on August 1.

Read more: http://www.shropshirestar.com/