Controversial price hikes for Coventry taxis have been approved, despite protests from cabbies that it would be putting their trade on the brink of extinction.
As of August 30, driver licence renewals increase 39 per cent to £310, vehicle licence renewals rise 31 per cent to £245, and operator renewals increase 20 per cent to £2,000.
In contrast, neighbouring authority Birmingham charges £164 for a three-yearly licence renewal, while Wolverhampton charges just £140 for the same service.
During a council consultation on the increases, 93 objections were lodged, while a 292-name petition was also handed over by union Unite opposing the new charges.
At a meeting on Tuesday (August 20), council officer Sarah Elliott said the increases has been proposed to cover the cost of administering the taxi service.
She said: “These charges are put forward to make sure the taxi licence process is not putting pressure on the council.
“As we stand here today, we are operating in a deficit.
“If we stay as we are we would move into a significant deficit.”
But Unite’s Lee Clinton said: “I appreciate there are pressures for the local authority in terms of finance but there are also pressures for drivers as well.
“They are struggling at the moment and they are getting £15 sometimes just sitting and waiting as the work is just not coming.”
Cllr Becky Gittins also questioned if charges above the rate of inflation were “reasonable”.
She added: “I recognise what you said about not charging more than we spend, although I do not think that is necessarily a justification to increase it to the maximum.”
Ms Elliott admitted cabbies would likely be paying lower fees if Uber were licenced by the council.
Uber drivers have been obtaining licences from other neighbouring authorities and then operating in Coventry rather than applying through the Coventry licencing system.
Cllr Tim Mayer, the only councillor to vote down the increases, said getting Uber licenced would help to “level the playing field” for cabbies.
But Ms Elliott said the authority has no control over Uber and is only following legislation in regards to its own licenced cabbies.
The council has also not increased fees since 2009, the committee was told.
Cllr Balvinder Kaur said: “We fully support you but we also have pressures.
“This is not a money making exercise for the council. Licence fees cover the cost.”
Police are appealing for witnesses after four teenagers attacked and stole cash from a taxi driver after he picked them up from a trampoline park.
The driver stopped in the car park of the Royds Arms pub, on Rooley Moor Road, Rochdale, to drop off the four lads after he picked them up from Jump Xtreme in Trinity Retail Park, in Bolton.
All four boys got out of the taxi before one of them opened the driver's door and took his bag of cash.
They ran from the scene in the direction of the former Turners factory, off Rooley Moor Road, carrying £120 in total.
The taxi driver was left with grazed knuckles following the tussle.
The four boys are described as white, around 5ft 7ins tall, in their late teens and dressed in dark coloured clothing.
Detective Constable David Neil of GMP’s Rochdale borough, said: “The victim has been left extremely shaken after this incident and no-one should ever be subjected to such an attack when they are doing their job and making an honest living.
“The offenders got in that taxi and had clearly thought out their attack.
“Theft and violence will never be tolerated on our streets and we need the public’s help to find these men.
“I would appeal to anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area or has any information that could assist our investigation to please call police.”
Information can be given to police by calling 0161 856 8437 quoting incident number 2027 190819.
A taxi driver was punched in the head by a drink and drug-fuelled passenger who demanded all his money.
The cabbie, who had already handed back the £10 fare to the assailant, was so fearful he fled from his vehicle.
The attacker, Ashley Mackley, admitted assaulting the driver of the black taxi cab with intent to rob him, on the night of Monday October 15.
Elizabeth Dodds, prosecuting, told Leicester Crown Court the defendant and two other men got into the taxi in Horsefair Street, in the city centre, at 10.30pm and asked to be taken to Thurmaston.
The driver requested the £10 fare be paid upfront and during the journey the defendant and his associates became abusive and made threats to smash the taxi's windows.
"It made the driver feel very uncomfortable," said Miss Dodds.
When they arrived in Knightwood Road, Thurmaston, the 27-year-old defendant got out of the back and into the front passenger seat of the taxi.
The prosecutor said: "He demanded the £10 fare back, which was given to him.
"The defendant then demanded all his money and punched him to the side of his head."
Mackley made a grab for the driver's mobile phone, but the victim quickly took it and ran from the taxi, with the defendant chasing after him before giving up.
The driver rang the police and when he returned to his cab various items had been taken - including a satellite navigation system, his driving spectacles, his taxi licence and a bag containing about £35 in change.
In a victim impact statement the self-employed cabbie said he had been a taxi driver for 18 years and had never been attacked before.
It left him feeling "paranoid" about which passengers were getting into his cab for about a fortnight afterwards.
The total value of property taken was £181.
The defendant, who returned to the scene in a group, was identified by the driver and arrested.
Miss Dodds said: "He was under the influence of drink and drugs - and tested positive for cocaine at the police station."
Judge Martin Hurst said: "An aggravating feature of the case is the person was carrying out a public service."
He told the defendant: "This was disgraceful behaviour.
"You drank too much with your friends and took cocaine and all three were abusive and threatening in the taxi.
"It must have been frightening for the driver whose role is to take people like you home.
"When you arrived in a befuddled state you didn't think you should pay and demanded back the £10 - but didn't stop there and you punched him after deciding to take everything he had."
The judge also said that the defendant, who had not been in trouble since 2012, had an impressive reference from the Exaireo Trust, which provided him with accommodation and voluntary work - which showed he "could be well behaved".
Judge Hurst said he was prepared to suspended the sentence and added: "You may consider yourself to have had a lucky escape today."
Michael Garvey, mitigating, said: "He can't remember anything of the matter.
"He is a model resident where he is living.
"He wouldn't like this to happen to any of his family and offers an apology to the taxi driver and understands the upset it caused.
"He's genuinely remorseful.
"This incident can be seen as someone of a one-off."
Mr Garvey said the defendant was homeless at the time, living in a garden tent, felt suicidal and was struggling to cope.
He was not used to drinking and two acquaintances took him out drinking.
They gave him free cocaine and he acted completely out of character, said Mr Garvey.
Mackley was unemployed but willing to pay compensation from his benefit money, if ordered by the court, said Mr Garvey.
Mackley, of Baxter Gate, Loughborough, was given an 18 month jail sentence, suspended for two years.
He was ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work and will have to pay £240 compensation to the taxi driver at a rate of £40-a-month.
Scottish Borders Council assesses taxi fares each year using a formula which takes into account trends in the motoring industry such as the cost of vehicle purchase, fuel, and insurance.
In April, the council’s executive committee heard that the formula dictates that fares must increase by 3.7% for the region’s 111 taxi operators.
Although only 12 responses were gathered, nine from taxi users and three from taxi drivers and operators, the anonymous respondents expressed strong views about the rise.
One taxi user wrote: “Taxi charges in the Scottish Borders are far too high and to increase them further is a disgrace.
“Build a rank at Tweedbank station instead of forcing passengers to pay higher costs from Galashiels if heading in that direction.
“Allow Uber in to compete. £17 from Galashiels to Melrose is daylight robbery.”
Another user wrote: “I think the taxis in the Borders are very expensive by comparison to Uber and general cabs in Edinburgh.
“I live in St Boswells and work in Edinburgh. If I want to go out for more than one drink after work and opt to leave my car in Tweedbank, it is very high to get home.
“An off peak return by train to Edinburgh is under £12 and the taxi for a 10-minute ride from Tweedbank to St Boswells is just under £20 in unsocial taxi hours.
“That just doesn’t make sense that the 10-minute ride is more than the return to Edinburgh. I think we should bring Uber here, or to encourage people to come to the Borders more or use our restaurants etc, we need to be supportive of customers, not just drivers.
“There is a lack of competition and I think that is unfair at the moment and doesn’t bring the best for customers.”
One taxi driver agreed that the out-of-hours fare, which adds 25% on any taxi fare after 10pm, needs changed: “We asked that the starting rates go from £2.25 to £2.50 and from £2.80 to £3 when the original 25% was introduced, that’s all.
“It was meant to be on the starting rates only, not the whole fare, but it got mixed up. Some of the after 10pm fares are ridiculous, but this could be cut back to 10%.”
At a meeting of the council’s executive committee, on Tuesday, August 20, councillors were told that refusing to accept the fares would result in the Scottish Government’s traffic commissioner intervening and holding a review of the council’s decision.
This happened in 2015, when the rates last went up, as the local authority tried to stop fares from increasing, but was eventually told by the traffic commissioner that the formula used to calculate the increase was correct.
Speaking at the meeting, Kelso councillor Tom Weatherson said: “Last time we refused a rise we lost the case as the formula was proven to be correct.
“I would propose that going forward, we look at how fares are made up, as it’s very complicated in the Borders compared to elsewhere.
“We have two tariffs, one for rides of one to four people, and another for rides of four to eight people.
“So, if there’s five of you the fare can get very expensive. For example, if five people go from Kelso to Galashiels after 10pm, it would cost around £76 because of the price at four people.”
Galashiels councillor Euan Jardine also spoke against the increase: “I’m against this, especially when you take into account the comments we receive from residents about this.
“The post-10pm rates are ridiculous, as even a taxi driver notes in this report.”
However, the executive committee felt that their hands were tied by the formula and the apparent futility of resisting the fare increase, and voted against councillors Weatherston and Jardine, by five votes to two, to accept the increase.
A man in his 50s has been taken to hospital following the incident at the junction of North Castle Street, which happened at about 1pm. Police are investigating the possibility that the taxi driver may have suffered a 'medical incident' at the wheel.
The taxi struck a pedestrian before coming to rest against an estate agents on Queen Street.
The taxi came to rest against the building housing Murray & Currie Property Sales & Lettings. Pic: contributed.