Taxi drivers plying their trade in Bedford are being encouraged to keep their cabs in tip-top condition to make sure that they do not fail their annual safety checks.
The call came at yesterday's (Tuesday) meeting of Bedford Borough Council’s General Licensing Sub-Committee, which met to discuss taxi drivers’ protests that they are paying over the odds for various fees, including £83 for getting cabs re-tested after they fail annual check ups.
Gill Anderson, the council’s manager for registrations & land charges, said: “There is disquiet in the trade with the retest fees but our view is that vehicles should be presented ready to pass the test. Minor issues can be dealt with the same day but if it fails, the driver has to re-book.”
One of the issues with re-booking is that with 600 licensed drivers working in Bedford, it can take weeks to get a new slot. This means that a cab that has failed its check up will be off the streets and the driver will be losing money.
The council allows drivers to book a pre-check test before the annual test is due. But the sub-committee heard that hardly any drivers use the pre-checks, preferring to take it to the wire.
Members of the sub-committee of four councillors were told that 25 private hire and Hackney cabs failed their checks in the period February to early May. Some had multiple issues, including fog lamps not working, fuel leaks, and damage.
There were no taxi drivers present at the meeting but Gurdeep Dosanjh, the secretary of the Bedford Hackney Carriage Association, spoke to the Local Democracy Reporting Service afterwards.
He said the trade was facing rising costs and tough competition, including from drivers who travel in from outside of town and use SatNavs, instead of having to pass the local knowledge tests.
“We haven’t had an increase in the minimum fare for six years,” he said.
“The majority of the council fees are in line with other areas but they charge things like £41 for a photocopy of a taxi licence and £83 for a re-test, which is out of line.”
But Mr Dosanjh said taxi drivers were keen to talk to the council about issues, and were not planning to strike. “We do things democratically,” he said.
The meeting heard that the council is looking to streamline the licensing and safety checks process, to make it cheaper, and enable fees to be reduced.
And Cllr Phillippa Martin-Moran-Bryant said: “I would like to thank the trade for contacting the council and raising their concerns, and to our officers for talking to the trade.”
But Cllr Sarah Gallagher, who was in the chair, said: “We have a duty of care and taxi drivers need to realise that they are driving many members of the public. If we have to increase the fees, we will increase the fees.”
Councillors were told that it would be against the law for the council to charge over the odds and use licensing fees to do anything other than cover their costs. Most of the fees charged to drivers have been confirmed as rising by 2 per cent.