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‘We are between the devil and the deep blue sea’: Torfaen councillors debate potential fare rise for hackney taxis

Councillors on the general licensing committee discussed a proposal yesterday from hackney taxi drivers in Torfaen who want to raise fares. The debate was around the impact an increase would have on customers against how drivers have had to ‘shoulder’ the cost of fuel rises and cost of living pressures.

A report from Claire Howells, the council’s team manager for licensing and trading, said a group of drivers met the council on 2 August. Their proposal would see fares rise by ‘around 20%’.

Councillor Giles Davies, Abersychan Ward and chair of the committee, said: “I’ve been really torn about this. On one hand, raising the fees are going to affect some of the most vulnerable in society who rely on taxis but on the other hand if we don’t raise them, business are suffering as well, we will end up with no taxis. I’ve thought strongly about this over the last couple of days since I got the agenda, personally, I don’t think I’ve got any other option than to go with the recommendation as otherwise, we could risk putting taxi firms out of business and in the long term we will have no taxis and everybody will be stuck. We will be in a catch-22.”

Cllr Liz Haynes, St Dials Ward, said: “I run a small business myself, nothing related to taxis obviously, but some of my costs have escalated over 200% but most small businesses have the ability to increase their prices as needs dictate but hackney carriages, as Claire has said, they have not had an increase in over four years. They’ve shouldered their extra expenses and restrictions caused by covid, they’ve shouldered the quite dramatic increases in fuel until now and they are also personally shouldering their own cost of living increases.

“So although an increase sits a little bit uncomfortably with me due to the impact it will have on my residents at what is a really difficult time I also understand the need so I too will be supporting the request in the report.” She added that without the rise drivers could leave the trade and go and deliver food for “JustEat and Uber that are making quite decent money out there at the moment, speaking as someone who knows that business.”

Cllr Lynda Clarkson, Abersychan Ward, said: “These drivers need to make a living as well so we really are between the devil and the deep blue sea here. I don’t think many people will be surprised by the increases because it’s across the board, isn’t it? We are seeing it in everything and if we don’t get that balance between supporting businesses and supporting residents we are going lose valuable taxis and there is not much there to replace them.”

Cllr Norma Parrish, Panteg Ward, said: “The poorest in our society are the ones who going to feel the pinch with the taxi fares. I have enormous sympathy with the taxi companies, yes they should have a rise in their fares but we could do a little bit less than they are suggesting?”

In response, Cllr David Thomas said that taxi drivers know their business “inside and out, and know that they need to function on”.

Cllr Karl Gauden, Llanfrechfa & Ponthir Ward, said: “It’s a difficult one as we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. I can see both sides of the coin here. The analysis in the report is looking at our vulnerable residents’ reliance on taxis and school transport in particular. I think that’s the two main big ticket things that are relied upon. But our vulnerable residents who rely on transport are going through the same cost of living as the taxi companies.” He said a GP surgery in his ward was closing down and this rise would mean his residents having to pay extra to travel to see a doctor.

He pointed out the report shows that if drivers can’t earn a “decent” living there will be fewer drivers on the roads and added: “Everybody is under the cosh with the cost of the living so I don’t necessarily think we need to be rushing to do this. It needs to be well thought out.”

Cllr David Thomas, Llantarnam Ward, said: “I think this is long overdue for the taxi trade in Torfaen so I would just like to say that I think that this is something we should go along with.”

Cllr Jon Horlor, Trevethin & Penygarn Ward, said: “I have no objection whatsoever to the price rise. It’s inevitable.” He added that he had researched other councils and found that some had tied a fare increase in with making drivers have to accept card payments as well as cash. Claire Howell said that it’s not in the council’s policy to make drivers have a card machine but she knows that a lot of drivers do allow it. She said they would look into making a policy change if the trade asked for it.

Councilors voted for the report to go to Cllr Mandy Owen, executive member for the environment, who would put it out for public consultation for 14 days. Cllr Parrish voted against.


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‘We are between the devil and the deep blue sea’: Torfaen councillors debate potential fare rise for hackney taxis

a taxi plate