Taxi drivers could strike over 'disrespectful' fare increase claim

Taxi drivers in Northumberland could go on strike amid a bitter row over fare increases, it has been suggested.

County council bosses recently agreed to allow a five per cent hike in fare prices for Hackney carriages which came into force this week.

But the move has come in for criticism from operators who say it does not go far enough to cover their spiralling fuel and maintenance costs, with Northumberland’s largest association of drivers branding the decision “disrespectful”.

County hall chiefs have now been warned that the dispute could escalate into a drivers’ strike.

County hall chiefs have been warned that the dispute could escalate into a drivers’ strike.

Bywell councillor Holly Waddell claimed at a full council meeting on Wednesday to have “heard talk from taxi drivers of a strike” and asked if Tory-run local authority would support them in that or in lobbying the government for more support.

Coun Colin Horncastle responded by saying no specific funding was available to help the taxi industry through the cost of living crisis and accused drivers of being disrespectful themselves by not responding to a consultation on the proposed changes.

The council’s portfolio holder for community services said: “I would not support the taxi drivers going on strike.

“There is a running thread here, it says the taxi drivers’ federation think it was disrespectful. I wonder what side really thinks it is disrespectful when 800 emails were sent out and only five responses were taken.”

He added: “Although fuel has gone up 40-odd per cent, that is not the only cost taxi drivers have. If you look at some of the other costs, they have not gone up that much.

“No, I do not support a taxi drivers’ strike. They had their chance to take part in the consultation and they did not.

“As far as the Government is concerned, I don’t know what we can do. This council can’t support individual businesses, I don’t suppose the Government can either.”

A spokesman for the Berwick Taxi Association, which did respond to the consultation on behalf of the dozens of taxi operators it represents, confirmed that the prospect of a strike had been discussed, though no formal action had been taken.

He added: “If they [the council] woke up to the real world, they would understand how difficult it is to be a taxi driver. I don’t think they get the picture.”

Alex Hurst, of Phoenix Taxis, said the fare increase decision was “baffling” but rejected the idea of a strike, saying they would not “punish the people of Northumberland”.

The fare increase means the flag fee for a cab has increased from £2.50 to £2.60, with passengers then paying a further 10p every 86 yards. Previously, the fare increased every 91 yards.