Be fair on fares, plead Breckland taxi drivers

Taxi-drivers in Breckland have demanded to be allowed to raise their fares so they can keep pace with huge rises in fuel and licensing costs.

Maximum taxi fares in the district are set by Breckland Council and have remained unchanged for the past five years, even though the same authority has twice increased the fees it charges to firms.

The most recent review took place this month, when a committee agreed to a series of fee rises to cover a �6,000 deficit in the council's own costs for administering the service.

During the same five-year period, petrol prices have soared by 40pc to their present record levels.

But, with no control over what they can charge, taxi-drivers have been forced to absorb the spiralling costs that have cut deep into their take-home pay.

David Hixson, chairman of Breckland Hackney Carriage Association, said that, unless the council sanctioned a corresponding increase in fares to balance fee rises, it was taking money from drivers' pockets.

Mr Hixson said: 'It is just intolerable. The first rise was absorbed by drivers three years ago, and it looks like we're going to have to do it again.

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'It is taking money directly out of our pockets. You can only do so much work in an hour, so you have got to work more hours, which puts pressure on an individual's lifestyle and their family.'

Mr Hixson, a director of Dereham-based Breckland Taxis, said he believed a fare rise of at least 7pc was needed to help keep taxis on the road.

He said he had helped one fellow driver with his paperwork and was stunned to discover that, once all his costs had been accounted for, he was left with only �120 a week.

Breckland's general purposes committee agreed to the new fees structure after hearing that the revenue did not cover admin costs, with a �100 hackney carriage licence costing on average �116.58 to process, monitor and enforce.

However, officials say the request for a fare review is likely to be discussed by councillors later in the year.

Breckland's head of licensing, Stephanie Butcher, said: 'Following a recent taxi licensing charges review, a fare review has been requested and is being progressed by the Breckland Council licensing service.

'Following background work, a report will go to council members in the next couple of months. The report will then go out to public consultation and, subject to objection, will be considered by [the] council.'

Maximum fares in the district are now �3 for the first mile and �1.80 a mile thereafter, with premium rates charge-able after 11.30pm and on Sundays.