Taxi drivers

Taxi drivers’ anger over pre-Christmas fare hike ruled out

A pre-Christmas taxi fare increase in the Taunton and Minehead areas has been blocked after eight people submitted objections to the council.

Furious taxi drivers say there has been no increase in the past 11 years, despite skyrocketing car insurance and fuel costs.

A taxi company had applied for permission to ride at the Somerset West Licensing Department and Taunton Council before the holiday season.

But the council has now postponed the decision until the new year following opposition expressed during a consultation period which ended on Monday December 6.

Robin Colclough, spokesman for the Taunton Taxi Drivers and Owners Association, said a 12% fare increase offered by SWT had been agreed with the trade.

He added: “The trade hoped that this increase would be without objection and that the increase would be available for the Christmas and New Year period.

“Finding out that, following eight objections, the licensing department now has to present the proposal to the executive committee and that they will only meet on January 19 is very disheartening.

“The increase is desperately needed to cover the increased costs associated with running a taxi business.

“Trade faces at least two of the main drivers of inflation, namely fuel and trade insurance. Motor insurance has grown by over 40% in the last 11 years, fuel has increased more than 30% in the last six months.

“On top of that you have all the other costs that go up with inflation – tires, upkeep, repairs and upkeep have all gone up hugely since the last pay rise in the trade. We can’t no longer continue to pay all these higher prices without some increase in the money we earn.”

Mr Colclough conceded ‘money is tight’ due to Brexit and the pandemic, but he doesn’t know anyone who hasn’t had a pay rise in 11 years, when the last 18 months have seen many drivers are leaving the industry, while those remaining have seen the company’s profits wiped out after “months of little or no work”.

He added: “The proposed fare increase would be a boon to us and allow us to replace essential relief funds and contribute a little to pay for the increase in everything we need to operate.

“If this increase does not materialize or is significantly reduced, commerce in this city will continue to decline and, we are confident, will eventually die.

“A business with the overheads we have to manage cannot operate without a realistic and reasonable income. There is little or no chance of attracting new drivers to the trade when they often struggle to match the pay minimum.”

A spokesperson for SWT said a public consultation had been held on a local taxi company’s request for a fare increase.

They added: “It was also an opportunity to align taxi fares between the two former districts of Taunton Deane and West Somerset, which have remained unchanged since 2010 and 2011 respectively.

“The adoption of the proposed fee schedule along with the eight objections received will be considered by elected councilors at an executive meeting scheduled for January 19.”