A complaint by Boro Taxis to the Local Government Ombudsman has led to a proposed overhaul of Middlesbrough Council’s taxi licensing fees.
Middlesbrough Council was ordered by the Local Government Ombudsman to apologise to Boro Taxis for failures in the way it administered taxi licensing functions.
Now a report is being presented to a meeting of the council on September 16 that recommends a new fee structure.
The report to the Council says that under the proposals vehicles licences will reduce by an average of 45 percent and 37 percent for new applications and renewals.
Drivers’ fees will rise by £149 to £204 for new applicants annual licence, and £57 to £112 for an annual renewal .
Full vehicle re-tests will rise by £19.50 to £68.
The proposed reductions comprise:
- New Hackney Carriage Vehicle Licence– down to £279 from £495
- Hackney Carriage Vehicle Renewal – down to £297 from £455
- New Private Hire Vehicle Licence– down to £270 from £513
- Private Hire Vehicle Renewal – down to £288 from £479.50
Christine Bell, Boro Taxis’ Company Secretary, who lodged the complaint with Dr Jane Martin, the Local Government Ombudsman, said: “I am pleased to see that Middlesbrough Council is finally taking action following Dr Martin’s ruling last year.
“While the proposed restructure is a mixed blessing for the industry with fees going up as well as down, the important point is that the Council is for the first time formulating a transparent framework.
“I strongly believe that local authorities have a duty to operate in an open and accountable way and the recommendations, which are going before the Council, further vindicate my stance in taking my complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.”
Ms Bell added: “Boro Taxis will fully participate in the consultation process. One increase proposed that will concern the entire trade is the rise in the fee for vehicle tests, which currently are carried out in-house by the Council.
“The latest information available to me shows that the test station charges the licensing department £35 per test, yet the Council is proposing to recharge this out at £68, an almost 100 percent profit for the Council, with the trade having no choice where vehicles are inspected.
“There are savings of up to 308 percent for operator licences when comparing the current annual fee of £435 to the new five year licence option of £670.
“Drivers also now will be able to opt for a new three year driver licence, which will be much more cost-effective when compared to the new annual licence fee proposed. The Council previously refused to consider issuing three year driver licences.”
Following a Freedom of Information request, Ms Bell discovered that the Council could not demonstrate how it calculated its taxi licensing fees because they were based on historic data that the Council no longer held.
Ms Bell was forced to bring in the Local Government Ombudsman after Middlesbrough Council stated that the ‘fees cannot be deemed excessive’ with ‘no further action required’ when she approached the Council about her complaints.
A report to next week’s Council meeting says: “In December 2014, a Local Government Ombudsman complaint investigation concluded that the Council was unable to provide the historic calculations upon which its taxi licensing fees had subsequently been based.
“In response, the Authority agreed to review its fee structure. The fees have now been recalculated on the required cost-recovery basis and the legal process dictates that they are considered and endorsed by the council prior to being subject to consultation.”
The Local Government Ombudsman admonished the Council for failing to:
- ‘Keep adequate records’ as it could not demonstrate how it calculates its taxi licensing fees.
- Give Boro Taxis information about vehicle and driver licences suspensions, expiry and renewals dates, which it needs to run efficiently as a private hire operator.