Tough times, but at least council’s not made it worse

The drivers' dispute might be over, but at what cost?

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Would taxi drivers in Portsmouth now be facing a big rise in their fees if they hadn’t turned up at a council meeting to make their voices heard?

We’ll never know. But what is certain is that their presence and protest had the desired effect.

Councillors were left in no doubt about the impact any increase in charges would have and voted not to impose a ‘full cost recovery’ programme across the whole taxi trade.

They decided against raising the cost of a hackney carriage vehicle licence next year from £196 to £303. Instead, charges will go up gradually over five years.

Meanwhile licences for private hire vehicles – operated by taxi firms – will go up from £150 to £164 next year.

The decision on hackney cabs was described by one relieved driver as ‘a victory for common sense’ and it’s not hard to see why. The truth is that some drivers are finding it hard to make a living out there and there were real fears that, for them, a big jump in the cost of a licence would be the final straw.

The problem seems to be one of supply and demand. As hackney carriage trade official Viv Young says today, the taxi industry has ‘never been so quiet’, yet at the same time the city is ‘saturated’ with private hire taxis and hackney cabs.

Taxi drivers know there are challenging times ahead and there has to be concern at the spread of taxi company Uber, which allows people to hail a cab and agree a fare with the self-employed driver by using an app on their smartphone.

Already operating in Leeds and London, Uber could see densely-populated Portsmouth as an ideal place in which to expand.

We’re pleased the council didn’t make things even harder for the city’s taxi drivers. But we’re realistic enough to know that some drivers may still end up leaving the trade because in a crowded market they can no longer make a go of it.

If they’re all chasing fewer fares, then eventually something has to give. But at least councillors have not hastened their demise.

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