Councillors reject call for 60p taxi surcharge to tackle fuel crisis

The taxi rank in Lloyds Avenue, Ipswich. PIcture: JASON NOBLE

Calls for a 60p surcharge were rejected. - Credit: Jason Noble

Pleas for a 60p surcharge on Hackney Carriage cab journeys in east Suffolk to tackle rising fuel costs have been rejected by councillors, despite warnings Lowestoft was losing drivers.

But a pledge has been made for a consultation with the trade to establish how many drivers feel it is necessary, and introduce a lower 20p rate in the summer if needed.

East Suffolk Council's licensing committee heard a request that a 60p fuel surcharge be added to all journeys for a temporary period of 12 months, in response to the rising cost of petrol and diesel.

Drivers suggested that would be a reasonable amount for passengers to pay for a temporary period to see them through the current cost of living crisis. Currently no fuel surcharge is levied.

But the committee rejected those calls at its meeting on Monday, April 11, citing the need for a consultation with cab drivers across the whole of the district to ascertain how many would want it.

Instead, the committee voted to introduce a 20p surcharge on all journeys for a period of three months, but only after the trade has been consulted.

The two-week consultation will happen this spring, with results returning in time for the committee’s next meeting in July, when it will decide whether to implement the 20p surcharge.

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If approved, that would then be reviewed by the committee after the three months

The request was for Hackney Carriage cabs – those which can be hailed from the roadside and queue in ranks, as private hire cabs can set their own fees already.

All Hackney Carriage cab drivers will be contacted, offering them the opportunity to comment during the two week consultation.

Councillor Paul Ashdown.

Councillor Paul Ashdown - Credit: East Suffolk Council

Councillor Paul Ashdown said: “This needs to go out to consultation first with every taxi driver so we have a complete report of all their opinions. I think 60p is too much in any case.

"They are reasonably well paid with the fees they have actually got at this moment in time, and everybody is feeling the pinch."

Councillor Linda Coulam added: “We have got to look at the whole piece of people in East Suffolk, not just taxi drivers, and I do believe we have got to put this out to consultation first.”

Concerns were also raised over whether a flat rate of 60p for all journeys regardless of length was appropriate.

According to the council, there are currently 187 Hackney Carriage drivers.

Information provided by the drivers proposing the change indicated that their fuel costs had increased by around £8-10 per day, across an average 18 jobs per day.

keith robinson

Local council chairman Keith Robinson. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Councillor Keith Robinson, who backed the 60p surcharge, said there was a situation where they were “losing taxi drivers in Lowestoft” and cabbies were “moving over to food delivery because they make more money”.

He added: “We need taxi drivers and to have taxi drivers we need them to make a living. I think if we don’t allow them a bit for fuel increases I can see more and more going out of business.”

A date for the consultation is set to be announced in due course.