Taxi drivers

Lancashire taxi drivers rely on tax credits to make ends meet

Modern taxi drivers shouldn’t face Dickensian terms, meeting told

Taxi drivers’ incomes have dropped so much over the years that many now rely on tax credits, the Lancaster City Council Cabinet said.

Although the carriage taxi system is replete with Victorian “Dickensian” language, modern cabbies shouldn’t face Dickensian conditions, it has been said.

The balance between the need for taxi drivers to earn a decent income and the needs of passengers for affordable transport and in a context of rising costs was highlighted during discussions of potential fare increases.

Cabinet advisers generally agreed that taxi fares needed to rise. The challenge is to agree on a method for setting increases across a range of charges that are acceptable to drivers and passengers.

Local councils are responsible for setting carriage taxi fares. At Lancaster City Council, most details are handled by the Licensing Committee. But the final approval of any load increase is taken by the cabinet.

At the latest cabinet meeting at Morecambe Town Hall, various options were discussed, including different charges calculated on times or distances travelled, and the potential impact on different types of passengers, from school children to elderly people, supermarket shoppers to people traveling to airports.

During a public question and answer session, taxi driver Andrew Kay said fuel costs, vehicle maintenance, tyres, insurance and inflation costs had all risen faster than income and prices.

He said: “I’ve been driving taxis since 1982, more or less. There was traditionally an arrangement to split the revenue in three ways between the driver, the running costs of the vehicle and the owner of the vehicle. In the past, a Once all of that was accounted for, drivers could still earn a living. Many drivers today rely on tax credits and other things to survive.

“I work fewer hours these days. But to reach the level of income I was earning when I started driving, I would have to work day and night, six days a week.

Green Coun Dave Brookes, thanked Mr. Kay for his comments.

Commenting on the Dickensian language of the taxi system, with expressions such as ‘coach’ and ‘yardage’, Councilor Brookes added: “The working conditions of drivers should not be Dickensian and it is worrying that some drivers have to count on tax credits.

He said the fees needed to be agreed with the trade and a good review process was needed with meaningful consultation.

A cabinet report said there had been no tariff reviews or increases since 2019, when a 20p increase on ‘falling the flag’ was approved. It was therefore advised to review all tariffs including flag drop, rollover fees, waiting times, fouling fees and booking fees.

The council’s licensing committee had recommended an ‘increase’ to signal the fall of three fares by 50p and a 10p rise in waiting charges. In this way, the taxi business would soon see a rise commensurate with the current climate.

However, the recommended increases have not been backed by a method agreed with the taxi industry, the report adds.

Councilor Brookes said: ‘Consultation is important because it can save time in the long run and should lead to fewer objections. We have to make sure that happens. However, the licensing committee is the democratic forum for consultation and the cabinet should respect that.

Union counselor Colin Hartley, chairman of the licensing committee, said a process was already in place for charges and consultation, which he found acceptable.

He added: “Drivers’ income is important, but we also have to keep in mind that many customers have low or fixed incomes. It’s a tightrope we walk on all the time. ”

However, Councilor Brookes suggested the cabinet should not yet vote on the licensing committee’s current recommendations. Instead, he suggested that “quick and informal” consultations be held with the taxi industry and then the cabinet could consider the final recommendations at a future meeting, likely in April.

This was agreed although some advisers questioned whether it was realistic to expect a new method to be agreed in time for a cabinet meeting in the spring.

Union counselor Erica Lewis asked if the council’s licensing staff team, which was quite small, had the capacity to do more work. Councilor Brookes said he spoke to an officer and was told yes.

Councilors agreed that new arrangements should be agreed and confirmed as soon as possible, so that taxi drivers see the benefits.

Conservative Councilor Andrew Gardiner, who is not in cabinet, asked a few questions and also said taxi fares were essential for the good health and safety of drivers and passengers.

Drivers working long hours could be a hazard as well as poorly maintained vehicles due to rising costs.

Apart from costs, the Covid-19 pandemic has also brought many challenges for the licensed taxi sector, the meeting learned. Many drivers did not renew their license and sought other employment. Thus, the city council worked with other organizations to support the taxi profession and encourage new candidates, thanks to training funding.