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ROUND THE COUNCILS...


SOUTH OXFORDSHIRE: TAXI LICENCE FEES TO RISE


Licensing fees for taxi and private hire operators in South Oxfordshire are to be revised. According to the Henley Standard, South Oxfordshire District Council is consulting on the new charges, which it plans to roll out on April 26 unless there are objections, in which case this could then be delayed for amendments until June 21. A standard hackney carriage would pay £315 a year under the new scheme while a single private hire vehicle would pay £220 with reductions for low-emission cars. A private hire firm would pay between £158 and £577 depending on the size of their fleet.


REDCAR AND CLEVELAND: LICENCE FEES TO GO DOWN


Hackney carriage and private hire drivers in Redcar and Cleveland will pay less to be licensed after councillors approved proposed changes to fees. According to GazetteLive, new driver licences along with the cost for renewals are going down after the council said its financial accounts for drivers and vehicles were close to being balanced. A new 12-month licence will now cost £170, rather than £210, while a new three-year driver licence drops from £460 to £400. Drivers renewing their 12-month licence will now pay £145, rather than the previous £185, and for three years the fee will be £370, rather than £430. However it may be only a temporary reprieve while a review into a potential increase in vehicle and operator fees which had been due to take place - and was expected to lead to a potential increase in these charges - is deferred so that the “effects of the current pandemic and how it will affect the licensed trade can be fully understood”. Meanwhile, fees for criminal checks, payable every three years, are going up from £40 to £50.40. Members of the council’s regulatory committee were told this was because of the introduction of a new online service that had been rolled out. Stephen Brown, Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council’s licensing manager, said the new system, which means drivers do not have to attend in person at the council with relevant documents, was really simple and effective and “everyone has taken to it”. A consultation has already taken place with drivers over the various fee changes and no comments were received, a report added.


18


TUNBRIDGE WELLS: NO LICENCE FEE INCREASE DUE TO COVID


Plans for licensing fee increases have been scrapped by councillors after hearing cabbies’ responses to a consultation. According to KentOnline, back in December, members of the borough’s licensing panel had approved plans put forward by officers for a raft of increases for both hackney carriage and private hire drivers but councillors changed their minds and voted on 9 March to retain the current fees. Officers explained that the service currently ran at a loss to the council, with fees failing to cover the cost of carrying out vehicle checks, issuing licences and maintaining taxi ranks. The current shortfall was £4,897 year. But councillors unanimously agreed that although in principle fees should match costs, the middle of a pandemic was not the time to put up charges. However, the council has introduced an additional test this year - the EQUO - to raise drivers’ understanding around matters such as CSE, safeguarding, disability awareness and county lines. The one-off fee for that is £66.


WOKINGHAM: STRUGGLING DRIVERS GET LICENCE FEE HIKE


Taxi and private hire drivers in Wokingham will have to pay an extra £42 over the next year for their licence. According to the Bracknell News, Wokingham Borough Council has decided to increase the fee for hackney carriage and PHV licences from £248 to £290 in 2020/21. Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors called for the fees to be frozen at £248 during a meeting of the council’s Licensing Committee on March 9. But the Conservatives refused, after stating the hiked fees will be used to cover the council’s administrative costs and taxi drivers have been offered grants and other support. Council figures show 18 hackney carriage drivers and 23 private hire drivers in Wokingham have quit the trade during the pandemic. However, Conservative councillors claimed it would not be fair to freeze fees for taxi drivers or offer a discount, when other local businesses that have been hit hard by the pandemic continue to pay their fees. The Licensing Committee agreed to review the fees in June after more work is done to assess the impact of the pandemic on taxi drivers and the support they have been offered. They will then decide whether the drivers’ licence fees should be subsidised. If a subsidy is approved, monthly payments made by the drivers after June will be smaller.


APRIL 2021


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