Taxi fares are to increase in Northumberland, with quite significant hikes in some places due to a new standard tariff for the whole county.
However, county councillors voting for the rise, which will be subject to a formal consultation, were told that they were simply setting the upper limit so firms or drivers could choose to charge less.
Local authorities are responsible for setting the maximum tariffs that can be charged by hackney carriages, but the last increase by Northumberland County Council was in 2013 and before that in 2009.
At the April meeting of the council’s licensing and regulatory committee, members described the tariffs in Northumberland as ‘a minefield’ and ‘a headache’.
This is because they were set by the six former district councils, meaning there are significant differences across the county, even for the likes of soiling charges.
Council officers returned to the June meeting with a suggested new set of amalgamated fares and charges, which were approved by the committee.
Coun Trevor Cessford said: “It was a very difficult job you were given at the last meeting, asking you to come up with a standardised tariff. There are some massive rises, but I’m glad it’s been clarified that these are maximums.”
As an example, the new Monday to Saturday (except 11pm to 7am) tariff will be £2.50 for the first 500 yards or part thereof, 10p for each subsequent 91 yards or part thereof and 20p per 30 seconds of waiting time or part thereof.
This would mean a 10-mile journey in a Hackney carriage would cost a maximum of £21.30 anywhere in the county, a rise of between two and 30 per cent, depending on the former district.
Coun Catherine Seymour, who represents Berwick North, pointed out that some of the increases for Berwick were ‘huge’ and voted against the changes as they were ‘too high’.
But the committee chairman, Coun Ian Hutchinson, said: “We are never going to get a level playing field unless we do something.”
Coun Rupert Gibson added: “As it’s a unitary authority, it could have been done a long time ago, but it hasn’t and I think it’s time I was levelled off.”
Councillors also agreed to increase the licence fees for taxi drivers, over and above what officers had suggested, to ensure that the costs were fully covered.
Therefore the proposed new fees, also subject to consultation, are £78 for a one-year licence, £112 for two years and £146 for three years. An additional licence would cost £30.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service