Stunned taxi drivers in Burnley facing a 100% increase in fees want Burnley Council to put its own house in order before demanding money.
They made the call at an impromptu meeting on the taxi rank at Burnley bus station before being moved on by the Police.
The 38 men currently pay £87 for hackney carriage licences. As from Monday, they face a bill for £480 to cover three years. They want the Council to hold fire, and to clamp down on illegal practices by private hire cars plying for trade.
The huge increase is a direct result of a recent High Court ruling stipulating the administrative costs of arranging licences must be drawn up by local councils and paid for directly by the taxi men.
Burnley’s Licensing Committee meets on Monday evening and could rubber-stamp the increase, but drivers want councillors to defer making any increase, and to look at the whole picture of how both hackney cabs (taxis) and private hire firms are governed.
Driver Aurangzeb Ali spoke for many of his colleagues. “Drivers feel like they are being bullied,” he said. “Private hire cars are taking our trade and Burnley Council is doing nothing to protect us. It is a big issue. We are law-abiding and operate as proper taxis.
“The council issues private hire licences to anybody. They are not allowed to pick passengers up, but they do, and when they do they put the public in danger.”
Drivers say they are prepared to hand in their badges in protest, putting nearly 40 families on the breadline, to get the issues resolved.
They want a limit on the number of licences issued to give them a more secure future so they can make a living and afford to pay the fee.
Karen Davies, Burnley Council’s environmental health and licensing manager, said: “Over the last 12 months we have worked with the taxi trade to carry out the review. The report to Monday’s licensing committee reflects the outcome of the review.
“We understand the concerns of the hackney drivers in particular who are faced with an increase from £240 to £438 for a three-year licence. The council has offered a loan to mitigate some of the increase and we are open to other suggestions from the trade.”