Taxi fares in Eastbourne are set to rise later this year after proposals gained the final approval of councillors.
The fare increases – the first in the borough for ten years – are expected to come into force in October after being agreed by Eastbourne Borough Council’s licensing committee on Thursday (August 28).
While the increases had been agreed in principle in March, the matter was brought back to the committee in light of an objection raised during public consultation.
The objection (which council papers say was the only one) was raised by taxi driver Martin Reeves, who argued the proposed fare increases would be too steep and would put off customers.
Speaking at the meeting, Mr Reeves said: “How can you possibly agree an increase that has percentage increase of between 10 and 100 per cent in the present climate?
“Those of you in business, or who own one, would not give your staff that sort of pay rise, so why make the paying public pay that amount?
“People will simply not get in anymore when they realise what they are paying. It is as simple as that.”
Prior to the meeting, Mr Reeves had put forward an alternative fare card with a more modest increase in taxi fares.
He also criticised increasing the additional charges for carrying pets and for small removals – from £1 to £2 and from £6 to £8 respectively – and said both charges should be abolished completely.
Mr Reeves also alleged that some drivers had been applying the small removals charge (intended to cover the additional effort of moving large furniture or a large number of boxes) inappropriately, by charging customers for hand luggage.
Council officers told the committee applying the small removals charge in these circumstances would be grounds for an overcharging complaint by customers.
The committee did not agree with Mr Reeves’ views, however, with councillors arguing the proposals had been backed by 74 of Eastbourne’s Hackney carriage drivers, which amounts to around 84 per cent of the town’s total trade.
Cllr Jim Murray (Lib Dem, Hampden Park) said: “To be brutal about it, we have a report here that has been out to all of the Hackney Carriage drivers, 84 per cent of them have agreed with it.
“You have just sat there yourself and said you have not got terribly large support from Hackney Carriage guys for your fees.
“Why should we change what 76 per cent of the drivers want to have for your fees?”
However, Mr Reeves’ views on the pets and small removals charges did gain sympathy from some committee members.
Cllr Colin Belsey (Con, Ratton) said: “I basically don’t have a problem with the overall fare increases, because over 10 years it is one per cent a year. If it were to have gone up at the rate of inflation I don’t think it would have been noticed.
“I do, though, have a problem with the pet [charges].
“An elderly person going to the vet and who doesn’t have transport … to suddenly start charging £2 each, that is £4 on your journey, I find that extortionate.”
To address his concerns, Cllr Belsey proposed increasing the main fares as proposed but freezing both the pet and small removals charges at their current cost.
This proposal was not supported by the majority of the committee, however.
Cllr Helen Burton (Lib Dem, St Anthony’s) said: “This is a well-scoped out piece of work and 84 per cent of the trade have agreed with those fares and think it is reasonable.
“I wouldn’t want to make any changes on one person coming in and saying something different when that work has already happened.”
Following further discussion the maximum fare increase was approved as originally proposed.
The new fares are expected to come into force from around October 30.
Under the current rate card, Eastbourne taxis can begin a journey between 6am and 11pm with a maximum of £2.60 on the meter, charging a maximum of £1.60 per mile for the first five miles and £2 for each mile afterwards.
The increased charges mean taxis would be able to begin the same journey with £2.90 on the meter, charge a maximum of £2 per mile for the first five miles and £2.20 for each mile afterwards.
For example, this would see the maximum charge for a two-mile journey rise from £5.70 to £6.90.
These fares only apply to Hackney Carriages (taxis at ranks) not private hire cars (usually booked over the phone), which can set their own prices.
Fares after 11pm, as well as those on Sundays and bank holidays can be charged at a higher tariff. Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day also continue to have their own special rates.