Taxi rules shake-up proposed for Northumberland

Taxi rules could change in NorthumberlandTaxi rules could change in Northumberland
Taxi rules could change in Northumberland
A shake-up of rules for taxi drivers is being considered by bosses at Northumberland County Council.

Currently, hackney carriages must be based in one of six zones and cannot tout for trade outside their designated area.

But while a proposal to scrap the current situation in favour of a single patch to make regulations easier to understand, concerns have also been raised about the knock-on effect the overhaul could have.

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“Some parts of the trade will say it would be much better to only have a single zone for Northumberland and then they can take their trade anywhere,” said Philip Soderquest, head of housing and public protection at Northumberland County Council. “Others will say they don’t want that because then others will come from one area into another, taking the trade from businesses already based there.

“[A single zone] would simplify it from a customer point of view, for visitors and tourists who won’t have a clue what the zones in Northumberland are. For the trade, some might welcome it, some will probably oppose it.”

Northumberland’s former ‘two tier’ system of local government, with six district councils sitting below an overarching county council, was abolished in 2009 in favour of the current system of a single unitary authority. But the system has lived on in rules for hackney carriages, which are still required to register to a ‘licensing zone’, dictating where they can be hailed in the street or pick up customers from cab ranks.

Despite this, a single fare structure is applied countywide. Different rules apply to ‘private hire’ vehicles, which must be booked in advance.

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Bosses at the county council are now preparing to launch a consultation on possible changes to licensing rules, which could see the existing set-up retained, or a single zone created for the whole of Northumberland. The creation of separate urban and rural zones has also been considered.

Licensing chiefs will hope to avoid a repeat of what happened in County Durham.

“They created a single Hackney Carriage zone that created huge problems,” Mr Soderquest told the council’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee.

“The term used for Chester-le-Street and Durham City was ‘honeypot’, because a lot of the taxes from the smaller districts moved into Durham City or Chester-le-Street, where there was more business for them.”