Cost of private hire and Hackney taxi licences in Northumberland to rise

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One of the largest taxi groups in Northumberland has reacted to the news that firms are set to pay more for their licences.

The cost for vehicles, drivers and operators have all increased, with a leading Northumberland County Council officer explaining that the rises were simply to cover increased the council’s costs, which had also gone up due to the cost-of-living crisis.

Earlier this year, drivers were left furious at an increase in fares approved by the council, saying it did not go far enough, and even threatened to go on strike.

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The Berwick Taxi Association said it was “livid” at the time and the group has now spoken of its disappointment that the licence fees are going up following approval by councillors at a meeting of the local authority’s licensing and regulatory committee.

Private hire taxi and Hackney carriage licence costs are set to increase in Northumberland.Private hire taxi and Hackney carriage licence costs are set to increase in Northumberland.
Private hire taxi and Hackney carriage licence costs are set to increase in Northumberland.

They include the following: Private or Hackney Carriage Vehicle Licence for vehicles – increase from £226 to £241; Private or Hackney Carriage Vehicle Licence for vehicles using “greener” fuels – increase from £204 to £241.

The Berwick Taxi Association represents a large number of drivers and is a member of the National Private Hire and Taxi Association. A spokesman for the group said: “Although the increase isn’t as much as some other councils, any rise is disappointing at a time when we are having to deal with significant cost increases.

“It was mentioned that everyone is dealing with the cost-of-living crisis, including the council, but I don’t think you can directly compare the costs of things like purchasing second hand vehicles and insurance to reams of paper and pens.

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“Another factor when comparing us to other businesses is that the vehicle age and type that we can use, and the level of fares, are imposed on us.

“It was mentioned at the meeting by the council that more than 1,000 taxi drivers were consulted on the plans, but fewer than 50 responded. But some of the responses were company and fleet owners who manage hundreds of drivers, so this should have been taken into account.

“However, it was refreshing to see that the council made sure the councillors had read the consultation responses before proceeding at the meeting and the cost for the process of obtaining a Private or Hackney Carriage Vehicle Licence should be the same – the type of vehicle is irrelevant when it comes to getting the paperwork sorted to be able to operate a taxi – so we agree with the decision to make it equal for all types of vehicle.”

The council has said it does not make a profit from licence fees, and the charges were simply in place to recover costs.

The other increases are as follows:

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- Private hire operators licence (one year) – increase from £106 to £110;

- Private hire operators licence (five years) – remaining at £502;

- Driver licence (one year) – increase from £78 to £85;

- Driver licence (two year) – increase from £112 to £122;

- Driver licence (three year) – increase from £145 to £159;

- Additional driver licence – increase from £30 to £34.

Speaking at the meeting, head of public protection Phil Soderquest said: “There isn’t a lot of support for it from the trade. There are three main reasons why they’re opposed to any sort of fee increase – staffing, cost of living and the increase awarded to the trade for the tariff earlier this year.

“It’s accepted that the cost of living is impacting on the trade, but those costs are also being borne by the authority. Costs have all gone up.”

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He added it was “slightly disappointing” the council only received 48 responses to the consultation.

Coun Julie Foster argued: “I know it’s a low number [of responses], but I’m sure everybody will have heard from constituents ‘why bother, it’s a done deal.’ That’s the perception that we place on for our residents and our businesses.

“I think that’s quite a reason to bear in mind as to why the responses are low.”

She said she was unhappy that licences for vehicles powered by “green fuels” would see their licence fees increase more than internal combustion vehicles. She added: “We’re pushing our taxi drivers away from greener vehicles. Fuel has gone down but electricity hasn’t. The price at charging stations is sky high.”

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Mr Soderquest reiterated the point that the council was simply recovering its costs.

Coun Foster proposed a motion that would increase the fee for greener vehicle licences by the same proportion as ICE vehicles, but this motion was defeated in a vote.

Councillors then voted by 10 votes to three to bring in the new increases.