The Licensing Committee were asked to consider a report regarding a proposed variation of the fares for hackney carriage vehicles in the Borough, that variation being an increase to the current table of fares.
The Senior Practitioner (Licensing) (SPL), Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) introduced this item and explained that Redditch Borough Council as Licensing Authority was responsible for setting the maximum fares for hackney carriage vehicles licensed to operate within the Borough.
The SPL explained that the process for altering the fares would involve two stages. The first stage would be for Members to agree that the Proposed Table of Fares be advertised. This would be done by the publication of a public notice with a period within which objections could be made by the public. At the second stage, if no objections had been received the Proposed Table of Fares would come into effect. Alternatively, if objections had been made then these would be considered further at the next meeting of the Licensing Committee.
The SPL stated that the Table of Fares had not been amended since 2011 which represented a significant period without an increase. The proposal before Members in the report had been put forward following discussions between officers from WRS and the Redditch Taxi Association.
Members were referred to the existing fares set out at Appendix 1 and the Proposed Table of Fares at Appendix 3.
To assist in showing how the fares in Redditch compared with other areas the SPL explained that the table at Appendix 2 showed a comparison of the cost of a 2 mile journey. Based on the table at Appendix 2, fares in the Borough were significantly less than those charged in some other local areas, with Redditch coming out as the lowest of the 12 authorities included in the table.
With regard to the Table at paragraph 3.13 of the report, Members were updated that the figures for June 2018 showing the average fuel prices had become available and were as follows:-
Unleaded 95 Octane
(pence per litre)
(pence per litre)
(pence per litre)
When these figures were compared with the fuel prices as at the time of the last changes in April 2011 overall the prices were lower in June 2018 by 5.4% for unleaded, by 7.5% for diesel and by 1.7% for super unleaded.
The SPL went on to explain that the cost of fuel should only be regarded as one factor for Members to consider. There had been an overall increase in the cost of living since 2011 and as indicated at paragraph 3.14 of the report the cumulative rate of inflation between 2011 and 2018 was 21.97%.
The SPL explained that the Proposed Table of Fares at Appendix 3 had been simplified to make it clearer for the public and Members were referred to the percentage increases for a 2 mile journey as set out at paragraph 3.16 of the report which ranged between 11.7% and 15.5%.
During the course of the debate whilst Members expressed support for an increase to the table of fares for hackney carriage vehicles, there were differing views as to what level of increase would be appropriate.
Factors regarded as favouring an increase in line with the figures at Appendix 3 included:-
· The length of time which had passed since the last increase;
· That in light of this the amount being asked for was not unreasonable and would place Redditch on a par with Sandwell; and
· That there was merit in making the increase as supported by the Taxi Association at this stage, rather than having a series of piecemeal increases.
Other factors seen as undermining the level of increase proposed in Appendix 3 included:-
· That the increase would represent a big hike in fares for the travelling public and they may not accept it;
· That Redditch had the highest level of deprivation in Worcestershire and given that public transport cover was not as good as it could be, there are significant numbers of residents who relied on using taxis for essential journeys, including hospital visits; and
· That the argument in favour of such a large increase was questionable when fuel prices had actually gone down since April 2011.
In response to Members questions the SPL confirmed that the table of fares could be reviewed at any time. He further stated that in discussion with the Redditch Taxi Association he had raised the option of any increases being introduced in two stages as opposed to one larger increase. However, the taxi association had expressed a preference for one increase citing the charges they would have to pay on each occasion to have the meters of their vehicles re-calibrated.
The SPL further commented that the lower price of fuel may be the reason why some other councils had not reviewed their charges in the last few years. Leaving aside the position with the cost of fuel, from the drivers’ point of view, expenses they had to pay for other items such as housing and living costs had gone up.
To avoid another long gap between increases, the SPL suggested to Members that a review every 2 years going forward would be helpful. With regard to the traveling public, there may well be reservations expressed regarding any increase and the SPL confirmed that any changes would have to be carefully communicated.
In further debate members discussed whether a lower increase of under 10% would be acceptable and whether there should be a deferral for this to be looked at, or whether consultation on the figures in Appendix 3 should proceed on the basis that this would then allow the public to contribute their views.
In response to Members questions, the SPL suggested that the overall amounts in Appendix 3 could be scaled down by making a reduction to the first line of the table (the “flag” fee) as opposed to changing the rate for the running mile, and there was further discussion as to how this would affect the figures. The SPL commented that one option would be to reduce the figures in the first line to £3.20, £4.75 and £6.40 respectively. This would have the effect of altering the cost of a 2 mile journey from £5.60 under Appendix 3 as set out in the report to £5.30. This would be in the region of a 9% increase.
There was further discussion as to whether the table would be clearer if the prices also included a rate per mile, and whether it would be more appropriate for the 50p extra charge for each passenger in excess of 4 to be amended to apply to groups of passengers in excess of 6.
Finally, a proposal was moved and seconded that the consultation should proceed on the basis of Appendix 3 being amended to reflect the lower figures referenced above and the alteration of the extra charge of 50p per passenger to apply to groups of passengers in excess of 6.
The Proposed Table of Fares at Appendix 3 be amended to replace the figures in the first line of the table with the figures £3.20, £4.45 and £6.40, and that the wording under the Extra Charges section be changed from “ For each passenger in excess of 4”, to “ For each passenger in excess of 6” and that:-
a) The proposed table of taxi fares as set out in Appendix 3 as amended be advertised by way of a public notice and objections from the public invited in accordance with the requirements of section 65, Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1976.
b) If no objections are received from the public during the period provided in the public notice, that the proposed tariff will come into effect at the end of that period.
c) If objections are received in the stated time, that the matter will be considered further at the next meeting of the Licensing Committee, and a decision made as to whether the variations to the table of fares should be made.