Rise in Basildon taxi fares agreed by council

Taxi fares will rise in Basildon from March despite fears the rise will disproportionately affect the poorest members of the borough.

The increases, including to the initial charge for a journey to £3.20 for a four-person vehicle, were agreed by Basildon Borough Council at a licensing committee meeting last night.

While voting to agree the rise, committee members admitted the need for a difficult “balancing act”.

Members said the council should balance the needs of the borough’s drivers, who are struggling with the highest inflation rates for decades and rising costs of fuel and vehicle repair, and those of consumers, who are also feeling the effects of the cost of living crisis.

The taxi trade has also been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, with the night time economy closed for large periods over the last two years and many people continuing to work from home even after the lifting of restrictions.

Councillor Kevin Wingfield (Con, Laindon Park) claimed the lowest fifth of earners make more taxi journeys than any other, according to the Department for Transport’s taxi and private hire vehicle statistics fact sheet.

He told the meeting: “My concerns here are that these proposed increases could end up disproportionately affecting those on the lowest incomes, because those are the most reliant on the taxi trade for non-leisure purposes.

“But I’m also very aware that it’s not the cab trade’s job to solve income inequality and rising costs of living and so on for the entire borough and obviously you’ve got overheads of your own and bills to pay.”

Cllr Wingfield also disputed claims by the Basildon Borough Hackney Carriage Association in its request for the fare increases, included in a council report, that the borough’s residents are more affluent than previously thought, with an average wage of £36,500.

He continued to say there is much wage disparity across the borough’s towns and that some people “barely break” £20,000 a year.

In response to a question from Labour group leader Jack Ferguson (Pitsea North West) about what further support could be provided by the council, an officer at the meeting said taxi drivers had been eligible to apply for the Additional Restrictions Grant.

If they applied in the first window, up to £5,500 was available as well as a £500 Christmas bonus, she continued.

Taxi drivers were also eligible to claim up to £1,500 from the council for screens, contactless card machines and hand sanitiser for their vehicles.

The additional restrictions grant has recently reopened in response to the effect of the Omicron variant on local business.

She said: “We have continued to support the trade in regards to funding that’s been coming from the government and opening that up to the trade.”

In addition to the increase in initial charge from £2.80 to £3.20, customers will be charged 20p per 203 metres until the taximeter reaches £7.20, and after that an additional 20p per 165 metres.

Additionally, the night time tariff will be raised from £1.80 to £2 and the start time will be brought forward from 10pm to 9pm.

A new midnight tariff of £1 will “help late nightlife coverage and ensure public safety”, according to the report.

Taxis will charge a double tariff on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve between 8pm to 6am, brought forward two hours from 10pm.

Finally, all tariffs will be starting amounts on the meter, rather than being added as extras.

There will now be a public notice for the fare review for 14 days, and if no objections are received then the new charges will come into effect on March 8.

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter