METERS are set to be displayed in Fenland’s taxis from April next year after councillors today approved a new policy.
Fenland District Council’s licensing committee ratified a revised Hackney Carriage and Private Hire policy during its meeting at Fenland Hall.
The revised policy was drawn up following a 12-week consultation with taxi firms and drivers, which closed on Monday last week.
It will now be sent to Cabinet for final approval with a motion that, if it’s agreed, it should come into force on April 1 next year.
The draft policy included in a report to councillors said: “All Hackney Carriage vehicles licensed or to be licensed shall have a taximeter fitted.
“Each taximeter shall be tested by one of the council’s approved testing centres in order to establish that the meter does not produce a fare in excess of the maximums prescribed in the current Hackney Carriage Fare Tariff approved by the council.”
The meter “shall be placed in a safe position and so far as possible so that all letters and figures on the face thereof shall be at all times plainly visible to any persons being conveyed in the carriage.
“For that purpose, the letter and figures shall be capable of being suitably illuminated during the period of hiring.”
Licensing officers or police officers will be able to inspect the meter “at all reasonable times” and if they are not satisfied with its accuracy the vehicle license could be suspended until is returned to a satisfactory state.
The report added: “If the officer or constable is not so satisfied within two months of the initial inspection, the Hackney Carriage Licence shall be deemed revoked.”
The decision has, however, left many taxi drivers fearing that people will not use taxis because they will be too expensive.
Fenland councillor Dave Patrick, who is also chairman of the Wisbech and District Hackney Carriage Drivers Association, said: “I believe the implementation of meters will cause severe damage to the trade because people will not know what they are going to pay for their trip.
“Our view is that it will drive people away from using the trade because it will push prices up locally – we have set prices for certain trips which are lower than the rate set by the council and in many cases we undercharge passengers.”
He also said that some drivers may turn down jobs because the cost of travelling to collection points and from drop-off points.
“For example, if someone calls a Wisbech firm wanting to travel from Upwell to Outwell a driver won’t travel all that way to earn what could be the minimum rate,” he said. “It will cost more to fuel your car.” (Drivers must charge £3.31 for the first 1.4 miles of a journey).
Cllr Patrick said the association is considering petitioning the public about the council’s decision. A decision on whether to petition will be taken within the next 24 hours.
He said: “We believe that the public will strongly support the present way we operate.”