THERE will be no increase in fees and charges for licensed taxi drivers in the borough this year, the council has revealed.

The decision has been taken to freeze costs for hackney carriage and private hire operators, despite the loss of income for the authority.

Councillors approved the move - although concerns were raised, including that the decision shows ‘inconsistency’ in addressing the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Discussing the fees and charges report for the coming year, council officer Robert Draper told members of the licensing committee on Monday (February 22) that the overall increase in license fees which the council have the power over, will be approximately 3 per cent from April.

This has been decided to reflect the council’s costs and budget strategy.

However, he added that the decision had been taken to exclude hackney carriage and private hire operators from this hike, due to the ‘difficult year’ they have had and ‘great concern’ that many have left the trade.

Financial difficulties faced by drivers have resulted from multiple coronavirus lockdowns, with fewer people travelling or leaving their home, and the nighttime economy also forced to shut down for extended periods.

Mr Draper said: “This year has been a particularly difficult one for those operators and drivers and as a result of that there is no change in the fees for hackney carriage or private hire vehicles.

“This will have a budgetary impact on the council. We will be losing an income of £4,100 pounds.”

However, Mr Draper justified the move by explaining that the past year has seen a significant drop-out of taxi drivers in the trade - with the numbers of hackney carriage drivers falling to almost the numbers seen before the council’s cap on numbers was scrapped.

He added: “But of greater concern is we are aware of a number of drivers and operators who have withdrawn for the trade in the last year for so, so we are predicting a budgetary pressure of £10,000 in reduction in income.

“Our key concern is much more towards those drivers and operators.”

However, members raised other concerns, including the impact of the pandemic on other industries.

Cllr Colin Phillimore (Basingstoke Independent Group, Overton, Laverstoke and Steventon) said: “The current economic crisis is not just difficult for drivers, it's difficult for all parts of the economy. I support not making changes for drivers, but are we not being inconsistent by not addressing the other parts of the economy which are struggling?

“I don’t see why we should be applying increases apart from the statutory ones. The other ones I dont think will make much difference to the budget anyway.”

The council’s 2021/22 budget is set to be discussed at a full council meeting later this week.

Cllr Phillimore added; “I think we’re putting the cart before the horse, before the budget meeting on Thursday.”

Cllr Tony Jones (Labour, Buckskin) asked about what more could be done to encourage drivers back.

He said: “What we’ve got to remember is our town is growing and if we’re losing people we’d like to know why.

“I’d like to see some comparisons with other councils - are we charging too much for our license? I’m assuming not but I don’t know. It’s sad if we are losing drivers, we need to look into it as an urgency, not as a thing for next year.”

Robert Draper responded by stating that the fees that are set by the authority reflect the costs of the authority, and that it’s therefore not recommended to compare with other authorities.

Officers recommended that councillors approve the new licensing fees and charges, which will apply from 1 April 2021.

Cllr Phillimore and Cllr Jones abstained, but the motion carried

A full list of the council’s current fees and charges can be viewed here: