A NORTH Wales council has approved a recommendation to raise the fee for taxi licences by 12 percent.
It has sparked fears that the cost of cab rides could increase, leaving more people isolated and fewer people applying to be cabbies.
Cyngor Gwynedd says the significant rise was needed to allow for the recovery of “increasing costs”.
Its general licensing committee approved the proposal which recommended raising the fees from October 1, 2023.
Council officer Gwenan Mai Roberts told its meeting today (Monday, September, 25) that it was needed to ensure that rising costs for administration and compliance of licences could be recovered in full.
After the committee unanimously accepted the proposal she said: “I think it is inevitable at some point we will get a request from taxi industry to increase fare rates and the sub-committee will have to consider this.”
In 2013, it was decided that fees would be reviewed annually for the granting of licences for a hackney or private hire vehicle, associated processing, administration, issuing licences costs, for granting a vehicle and operator’s licence, inspection costs, hackney carriage stand, public notices, management and supervision of vehicles and other expense relating to processing costs.
There had been a two year gap with no increase due to the pandemic.
A 28 day consultation proposing a rise in 2023 had ended on August 18, with only one email objection received. One local taxi company had emailed concerns that the increase would “make things difficult” for companies to attract new drivers.
It also noted a shortage of taxis in Pwllheli and Pen Llŷn, and that the taxi industry was continuing to try to recover business following a drop in income during lockdowns.
The respondent also believed costs of the licensing unit were likely to have fallen as many taxi firms used an online self-service for applications.
But Gwenan Mai Roberts said workload and costs “in all part of the process” including with the online system, had increased.
Many things “came into the mix” when reviewing costs, including rising inflation, training, costs of advertising, staffing and employment.
Increased checks to the DVLA and HMRC had also increased workload.
“Across the country taxis are under radar with tax, they have to register with HMRC, it can be difficult for taxi firms, it’s not the simplest system,” she said.
“We also have to look into criminal records, there is a lot of work involving drivers’ licensing, and the self-service system.
“Applications are not always filled in correctly, the online system does not know, all it knows is an application has been uploaded. We often have to go back to the applicant, several times.”
She added the cabinet had agreed the licensing unit could try to raise income so it could “pay in full its own costs” due to the “dire financial situation” the council was in.
During a discussion Cllr John Brynmoor Hughes told the meeting there were lots of taxis in Abersoch, but it was often expensive, even for short journeys.
Cllr Angel Russell added her concerns over people being isolated, stating: “We have already lost the 10pm bus in Pen Llyn, it’s a big blow. We talk about the Wellbeing Act, the importance of socialising, but more people can’t go out now to watch a rugby match or enjoy a pint.”
Cllr Edgar Owen added it was a policy that fees must cover the department costs whilst Cllr Eryl Jones Williams thanked “the taxi lads and lasses who had worked so hard through Covid”.
“I think we should thank taxi firms for what they did during Covid taking people to hospital,” he said.
“They worked very hard, many taxi drivers got Covid themselves and some even died, we should express our gratitude. But it goes up 12 percent, because we did not increase after Covid.”