Taxi fares hike rubber-stamped

SURPRISE ... Coun Alex Donaldson.
SURPRISE ... Coun Alex Donaldson.

THE taxi trade in South Tyneside is divided today after the go-ahead was given to inflation-busting fare rises.

The council’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee yesterday endorsed an application from the borough’s Hackney Carriage Association to hike tariffs by between 10 and 16 per cent.

It will mean the cost of a three-mile journey rising from £6 to £7 and a one-mile journey going up from £3 to £3.40.

A new 25 per cent rise on fares will also be charged on Christmas and New Year was also agreed.

The association says the increases are fair, pointing out they are the first since November 2007.

They also argue the changes merely bring them in line with fares charged in neighbouring Gateshead and Sunderland.

But not all borough cabbies are happy with the committee’s decision. Bosses at Dial-A-Cab in South Shields condemned the rises – and pledged not to introduce them.

At yesterday’s meeting, Coun Alex Donaldson expressed surprise it had been almost six years since the last fares hike.

He said: “It would seem it has been too long since the last rise, particularly with the increases in insurance and petrol.

“We should consider reviewing charges on a more regular basis in future.”

Paul Pearce, chairman of the borough’s Hackney Carriage Association, said: “It amounts to two or three per cent rises for the years since we had approval for the last increase in 2007.

“All it does is put us in line with what neighbouring authorities allow drivers to charge.”

He added: “In the five-and-a-half years since the last increase fuel has gone up, insurance costs have risen, and we’ve had to work longer hours just to keep above the bread line.

“I know rises of this level don’t look good, but we had to ask for them to bring us back to where we should have been.”

Coun Lynne Proudlock said many borough residents who had their wages frozen in recent years “simply can’t afford to use taxis”.

A report to this month’s committee says: “Comparisons with fares in other neighbouring authorities show that the proposals are not significantly out of step.”

Committee members did reject an application for 25 per cent fare hikes on all public holidays through the year – restricting them to Christmas and New Year.

The fare rises will come into force after a public notice has been issued – and if no objections are received.