Problem of cross-border hirings contributes to fair taxi fare increase

Mid Sussex District Council licenced taxi drivers at the Birch Hotel Haywards Heath. Pic Steve Robards SUS-140317-124025001

Mid Sussex District Council licenced taxi drivers at the Birch Hotel Haywards Heath. Pic Steve Robards SUS-140317-124025001

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A persistent problem of taxis licensed by other local authorities operating in Mid Sussex is one of the reasons taxi fares are going up from April 1, subject to a 14 day public consultation.

The Mid Sussex Taxi Association petitioned the district council for an increase in the amount drivers are permitted to charge customers and last Wednesday (March 12) the move was approved.

MSDC Licensing Committee members agreed to increase the Hackney Flag Tarriff by 20p with a reduction in yardage by 8 yards; and to reduce the distance covered for 20p from 170 to 160 yards. However, the waiting time rate stays the same at 20p for 40 seconds, which equates to £18 an hour.

Speaking to the Mid Sussex Times, Mid Sussex Taxi Association members defended the increase, saying it was a fair increase as their costs continue to mount.

“It is essential because obviously our overheads go up,” said Simon Cox, 48 of Wivelsfield and a taxi-driver for 23 years. “The council puts up the costs of being a taxi driver and owner each year, so we have to put the fares up.

“This is quite a small one compared to other authorities so I think it is only fair.”

Cabby Mark Raines, 50 of Haywards Heath, who has been driving professionally for 20 years agreed.

“We have to be able to maintain these types of vehicles – that costs just under £30,000,” he said, pointing to his taxi.

“To maintain a vehicle like that costs. Tyres, servicing, diesel - it’s all gone up and we have to move with that amount of inflation, otherwise we won’t be able to make a profit.”

However, it is not just inflation the drivers are competing against. Members of the association also cited the old issue of cross-border hirings - something they say is becoming more and more prevalent.

The association’s secretary Tony Milton, 68, of Haywards Heath, said: “It has been raised in parliament and we keep trying to raise it here and it has become an increasing problem, and we have more companies trying to move in.”

Iain Craigan, 51, of Wivelsfield Green, added: “It means our drivers are having to work longer hours to justify the same amount of income that they have been used to in the past because of the fact that we have people from out of this region operating in this region.”

They mentioned the fact that Mid Sussex District Council imposes more stringent licensing conditions than neighbouring local authorities, and that drivers operating under different plates will not have passed the local Knowledge Test, and sometimes passengers may not be insured.

A spokesperson for Mid Sussex District Council said: “Taxis are permitted to operate in other districts but this depends on where the booking is taken and is dependent on the operator only using vehicles and drivers licensed through that office.

“Some operators and drivers are flouting these rules, and it is possible that they are operating illegally and may not be insured.

“Unfortunately, the legislation covering this area is out of date and unclear.

“The council shares the concerns of taxi drivers about taxis licensed by other local authorities working in Mid Sussex.

“We have worked hard to combat this issue by working with neighbouring authorities to improve licensing practices, working with the taxi firms who operate across local authority boundaries, and carrying out periodic inspections with the police.

“Recently on one of our regular late night checks with Sussex Police, two licensed Private Hire Vehicles licensed by other authorities were found to be operating illegally in Mid Sussex.

“Both of the licensing authorities were notified and one authority has recommended that the driver has his licence revoked, while the other has imposed penalty points on the driver’s licence.”

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