Not fare: Is this the end of Corby as a black cab town?
A price hike has left many cabbies fearing for their livelihoods
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By Sarah Ward
Taxi drivers say a fare hike imposed by the North unitary council will mean the end of ‘cheap as chips’ journeys and have a huge impact on cabbies’ livelihoods and passengers’ purses.
North Northamptonshire Council’s decision to bring all hackney carriage maximum fares across Corby, Kettering, Wellingborough and East Northants into line, was roundly condemned by Corby taxi drivers and Corby councillors yesterday.
The price hike will see the starting rate on the Corby meter rise from £2.20 to £3.20 and see the cost of a five mile fare rise from £9.30 to £14, an increase of more than 50 percent.
The maximum taxi fare rates in the other towns were already higher and so customers in those areas will not see such a big price hike.
The move has been opposed for months by the Corby Hackney Owner’s Association and a number of drivers spoke at the meeting at Corby Cube yesterday morning.
“What you have done is put us out of business. Private hire is going to get all the fares. People are not going to be able to afford these new rates.”
Another said rather than harmonising, the increase would do harm to drivers and passengers and would lead to an increase in unlicensed cabs on the road which could lead to safety issues.
And Neil Rielly told the executive it had no understanding of the issues or of how the taxi industry operates in Corby.
“You are going to pit driver against driver”, he said. Customers won’t know what the fares are. You are playing god with our lives.” He gave NN Journal an example of a regular customer of his who will now see their daily taxi journey to work increase by £8, or £40 a week.
Corby town councillor Martin Reuby told the executive, which is led by Oundle councillor Jason Smithers, that they were out of step with the town’s culture.
“Corby is a town which has always relied on taxis. To try to harmonise Corby taxis with other areas which do not have such a reliance on taxis as a mode of transport is not comparing like with like.
“Yes we are unique in Northants and unashamedly so, so please stop trying with your political ideology to make everything the same - we are not the same and people in Corby do not wish to be.
“You have no member on your executive from Corby. How can you possibly claim to know what is right for the people of this town when you have chosen to load your executive with councillors from East Northants? It is ludicrous that you are making decisions that affect Corby without fully understanding the culture here and the ramifications of this decision.”
The town has 114 licensed hackney cabs in the town and around another 100 private hire fare taxis. The difference between the two is that hackney cabs can be flagged down in the street and use the taxi ranks.
Since the 1960s the town has been known for its hackney cabs, with many relying on taxis to get to work, take their kids to school and for supermarket or social trips for the elderly.
Speaking after the meeting cabbie Ian Robb, who is a director of Sky Cabs a mutual organisation that represents the majority of Corby’s hackney drivers, said the current model operating in the town had revolved around cheap fares with taxi drivers doing many journeys in a shift.
He said the impact of the decision will mean a drop in demand as customers will not be able to afford the fare rise, which will lead to a drop in supply. He said currently Corby people can expect just a six minute wait from booking a taxi to it turning up outside their door, but this quick service would not continue if drivers left the trade.
Clllr David Brackenbury who is the portfolio holder for growth and regeneration, said the hackney carriage trade in the north of the county had agreed a rise on the maximum fare rate was needed and that it was right to harmonise fares so that people paid the same wherever they travelled in the geographic area. He suggested the drivers in Corby come together and agree their own maximum fare.
After the meeting some drivers told NN Journal this suggestion was unworkable, would cause friction between cabbies and that it was the council’s role as the licensing authority to set the rates.
At the same meeting another controversial decision to bring charges into line was made. Residents from all areas will now pay £40 a year for their green waste to be collected, a new charge labelled by opposition leader John McGhee as a stealth tax on the county’s residents at a time of a cost of living crisis.
Currently only residents in East Northants pay for green waste collections, and it was agreed today to give those residents a £20 refund of some monies already paid. A green bag scheme is also being offered for a lower charge and the authority is offering discounted compost bins to the first 1,000 residents who apply.
By charging residents for green waste collections the authority will save £2m a year, although it says it will still be subsidising some of the green waste collection costs and will not make a profit from the new charge to residents.
More than 9,000 residents took part in a consultation by the authority with the vast majority saying they did not want the charges to be introduced.
The charges will be brought in from April next year with residents having the choice to opt in to the scheme.
The Conservative executive lined up to say it was a difficult decision to make, but it had to be made. Next year the North authority will need to make £23m in savings.
The costs of local authority services are spiralling due to inflation and an increased number of children and the elderly who need assistance from councils. West Northamptonshire Council has already sounded the alarm bell over its finances, less than 18 months after it was created on government orders following the financial collapse of the county council.
Read our story from Monday on this issue here
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