PLANS to hit taxi firms with a hefty increase in licence fees have gone out to public consultation.
Portsmouth City Council’s licensing committee has given people 28 days to comment on the controversial proposals.
The cost of getting a licence to run a firm could rise from £377 to £418 from April until the end of the financial year next March.
Those wanting to apply for or renew a hackney carriage licence – which is for the car not the driver – would have to pay £196 instead of £157.
For vehicles between six and eight years old it would rise from £276 to £331.
Fees are going up in stages over the next five years in a bid to help save the council’s licensing department money.
The options initially were to either impose bigger increases all in one go and not spread them out, or phase them over three years.
But Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the council, suggested doing it over five years and that was supported by taxi officials.
It sparked outcry from councillors who wanted more time to consider his proposal.
Cllr Les Stevens, who chaired the meeting, which was attended by around 100 cab drivers, said afterwards: ‘The leader of the council turned the meeting into a farce.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said after looking at the figures he decided it would be fairer on the taxi trade to spread costs out.
The cost of a hackney carriage driver badge has risen from £70 to £78 and private hire ones are now £88 instead of £70.
Hackney driver Samir Belaiche, 40, said he was finding it difficult enough to provide for his family. ‘It feels more like slavery than work,’ he said.
‘I need to spend time with my family as well.’
Viv Young, a hackney carriage trade representative, said: ‘Many drivers here in Portsmouth work 12, 14, and 16 hours a day, seven days a week, and on a health and safety issue, that can’t be good.’ Fees will be reviewed each year.
TAXI UNION OFFICIAL STANDS UP FOR UNHAPPY DRIVERS
A TAXI union official made a passionate speech about the plight of drivers in Portsmouth.
Addressing the council’s licensing committee, Chris Dixon, of the Unite union, said: ‘The taxi trade provides an invaluable service for the public and the city. These drivers are at the front line when it comes to getting people home in a safe and regulated manner.
‘The drivers get the drunks and vulnerable people home despite being regularly abused, assaulted and sometimes get no payment. We are the guys who make Guildhall Walk a safer place for the public.’