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/