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Highland taxi operators and drivers issue urgent plea to Highland Council to hike fares amid surge in costs particularly fuel but the local authority says it cannot speed up the process which could take six months

By Scott Maclennan

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Taxi operators say they are under pressure from rising fuel costs.
Taxi operators say they are under pressure from rising fuel costs.

Taxi firms across the north have issued a desperate plea for an emergency review of fares amid soaring fuel costs but any reassessment is likely to take at least six months to complete.

Now operators say they need Highland Council to agree to fare hikes ranging from between 20 to 10 per cent but the local authority says it is effectively powerless to expedite the statutory consultation and response process.

That means that even if the licensing committee agrees to order officers to conduct a review when it considers the issue on Monday it is unlikely any changes could be introduced before 2023.

A spokesman said: “The legislation that regulates taxi licensing, including the statutory process for reviewing the taxi tariff, does not provide the local authority with any power to conduct an emergency review.

“The review process must follow the statutory process set out in the legislation.”

That includes a consultation with the trade; review fare scales; suggest new fare scales; notify the public on the proposals; setting timescales for the fare introduction; calling on further representations and considering them.

Behind the call by the taxi trade is the sharp rise in petrol and diesel – up by 33 and 41 per cent respectively – as well as inflationary costs hitting on buying and repairing cars and retaining drivers, which are all placing an enormous strain on the trade.

At the moment fares start at £4 for the first mile and £1.80 for every subsequent mile, higher tariffs kick in at weekends and night time, and get higher still on public holidays like Christmas and New Year.

On the back of operators in Thurso and Inverness asking for an early review the council conducted a survey by the council that saw 95 per cent backing a fare increase with 38 per cent wanting a hike of 20 per cent.

A further 35 per cent want a 15 per cent rise and a 19 per cent want fares up by 10 per cent and a further seven per cent sought another amount.

Most of the taxi firms who took part in the survey want to increase fares by 20 per cent – the equivalent Just over a third favour a 15% price hike and 19% want a 10% rise.

Gavin Johnson, manager at Inverness Taxis said: “The price of fuel is a major overhead for drivers and it is affecting them. We have asked the council to increase the fares so that this will help with driver's costs.

“We really need to help drivers to retain them as there is already a shortage of drivers.”

Comments on the council papers indicate the level of feeling among many drivers:

  • The fuel costs are having a big impact on my earnings
  • Cost of fuel has influenced my decision. Now on £50.00 per day for fuel alone
  • This is [a] reluctant measure but with fuel costs escalated by vast amounts we have no choice, [the] cost of fuel has influenced my decision.
  • We need a significant increase due to the extreme inflation in current costs.
  • Cost of living has increased so much and we can only absorb so much .
  • First mile should be £5 and £2.10 every mile after 24/7 and have just one tariff
  • Increase needed to survive the cost of keeping vehicle on the road.
  • We need an increase but keep it low because too high will put the public off using the taxi trade, we don’t need more non-payers and over discounts amounts it’s bad enough now with school contracts
  • A rise is important for the operating costs, however imposing a 10% rise can’t be seen as greed

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