Watchdog called in over stalled taxi fare hike

Charles Oakes
Charles Oakes

Wigan Council could face scrutiny from a national watchdog after a taxi organisation slammed the slow pace of bringing in fare rises.

Charles Oakes, a director of the Hackney Drivers’ Association, has prepared a report for the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) over how charging more for black cab journeys has been handled in the borough.

Mark Tilley

Mark Tilley

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Mr Oakes said it was “ridiculous” that it is now almost a year since the HDA applied to the authority for the 20p increase on all trips following years of fare freezes.

He claimed drivers are still some way off seeing the necessary increases in their bank accounts as, despite the licensing committee’s approving the move, any further objections may still need scrutinising.

The council has apologised for the delays but says things were now moving forward.

Mr Oakes, however, said he also intended to seek financial redress for drivers who could have received extra money already had the town hall acted more speedily.

He said: “We applied back in autumn 2017 to slightly increase the rates in Wigan because the drivers haven’t had a fare rise for a number of years. It is absolutely ridiculous that this has still not gone through. These are people’s livelihoods.

“I don’t think waiting nearly 12 months for a fare increase is reasonable. We’ve had all sorts of excuses, including report deadlines being missed and staff being off.

“It has now been sanctioned by the committee but they are duty-bound to advertise a fare increase and I’m told that hasn’t happened yet. If there are objections they then have to be heard. Meters will also have to be changed and we will have to arrange that.

“I’m also asking the ombudsman to consider compensation for drivers’ potential loss of earnings. The council wants more and more from them in terms of better-maintained vehicles, and councils and the Government want to introduce electric vehicles which are expensive and have little infrastructure for charging.

“Meanwhile the price of fuel is creeping up again as is the cost of tyres, insurance and maintenance. The council has acted totally wrongly and needs to be taken to task.”

Mark Tilley, assistant director for infrastructure and regulatory services, said: “We have apologised for the slight delay in starting the consultation which ended in April.

A report was considered by the regulation committee in June but it was felt necessary to defer the decision as representations were made at the hearing.

At a further committee hearing in August the committee decided to approve the proposed increases and we are now moving ahead.”