RELIEVED taxi drivers have hailed the decision to scrap a huge rise in their fees as ‘a victory for common sense’.
Pressure from Portsmouth taxi officials helped put a stop to the city council imposing a ‘full cost recovery’ programme across the whole trade yesterday.
Scores of drivers turned up to voice their fury at a meeting over plans to hike the cost of a hackney carriage vehicle licence next year from £196 to £303.
But a compromise was instead reached ensuring increases will continue to come in gradually over five years.
To ensure the council still saves money, the private hire trade will instead see the price of licences for their vehicles – operated by taxi firms – going up from £150 to £164 next year.
Hackney carriage driver Chris Dixon, who has been in the trade for 40 years, said: ‘It’s a victory for common sense.
‘Without the representation we had against these plans they would have gone through on the nod. I thank everybody who turned up to show their support.’
Hackney driver Sokaoth Ali, 44, said: ‘It’s a small victory – so long as the council doesn’t change anything next year. The taxi trade is very tough.’
Speaking against the initial fee increases, hackney carriage trade official Viv Young said: ‘The taxi industry has never been so quiet.
‘Yet the city is saturated with private and hackney driver vehicles. Most of the ranks are rammed.’
Councillors agreed taxi workers needed to consider whether fees should go up if they want to continue making a living.
Lib Dem councillor Les Stevens launched an attack on Aqua Cars for having a monopoly over smaller taxi firms and keeping prices low in order to force drivers out of business.
But Bruce Hall, Aqua’s regional manager, said the the number of private hire cars on the road are going down each year – and demanded a personal apology from Cllr Stevens after the meeting for his outburst.
Tory councillor Ken Ellcome, who chaired the meeting and put forward the compromise deal, said it was the fairest possible but warned extra savings would have to be found elsewhere in the council budget to balance the books.
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