It’s not fair! That’s the cry from taxi drivers in Bedford who claim that they pay much more in fees than their colleagues other towns.
And on Tuesday, a petition signed by scores of drivers from the Bedford Hackney Carriage Association, and their claims of unfairness will be discussed by councillors.
“Our council charges over £400 for a Hackney Carriage test each year,” said Tahir Rashid, Haroon Rashid and Mohammed Bashir, in a protest email to the council. “This is one of the highest in the county and neighbouring counties.
“A fee of £81 for a retest is unfair and unjust and we believe this should be abolished.” They also called for the first increase in six years in the minumum fare they can charge customers, from £3.20 to at least £3.80. This would they say put them on a par with private hire drivers.
Drivers also say that if Central Beds taxis are re-tested in Bedford, they are charged £27, while a driver from the town is charged £81.
The General Licensing Committee had agreed to a new range of fee increases at its meeting on February 7 but the objections mean the decision has to be reviewed.
Taxi drivers met with council officers on May 16 and confirmed their objections to proposals for two per cent increases, including in the fee for retesting vehicles from £81 to £83. The views of other objectors will be reported to next week’s meeting.
Sue Lyons, Bedford Council’s interim chief officer for legal and democratic services, in her report to the General Licensing Sub-Committee, says: “The law requires that all objections validly received are considered before any decision is taken to confirm, reject or modify the fees and charges objected to.”
The council, even though it has a policy of “maximising income from fees and charges,” is legally obliged not to make any more money out of licensing fees than it needs to cover its costs.
So the sub-committee has been told that income generation was predicated on the basis that the maximisation would be lawful and, therefore, this needs to be considered. Any potential impacts on the council’s budget would be considered by the executive.