A “significant” taxi fare rise has been approved by St Helens Council to bring hackney rates in line with the rest of the city region.
The hackney carriage trade was instructed to submit an annual rate rise request by councillors last September, in accordance with St Helens Council’s statement of taxi licensing policy.
It had been intended that a rate rise committee would be established, although this never materialised.
Subsequently, the council’s licensing team has worked with the two main consultative groups, Unite and SHAPTHD (St Helens Association of Private Hire and Taxi Drivers) to produce a jointly proposed rate rise.
The request as a percentage increase is approximately 10 per cent.
This was distributed to the trade for ballot in June 17 and was agreed, with the trade considering the council’s 2018 report, which sought to align hackney carriage rates in St Helens with the charges made across the city region.
A new council report says St Helens has “historically and consistently” charged cheaper fees than the rest of the city region.
It says this has “undoubtedly impacted” on the trade and its ability to invest in their vehicles.
The council’s licensing manager Lorraine Simpson told the licensing and environmental protection committee this week that much work has been done to give the borough’s hackney rates “parity” with the rest of the city region.
Ms Simpson said the request is the “final stage” to bring the borough’s hackneys to a regional parity.
She said it is not anticipated that further rises will be of “significant levels”.
However, Ms Simpson warned there are future “unpredictable considerations” that council must bear in mind, such as the impact of Brexit in St Helens.
Ms Simpson said: “The trade recognise that the request may appear as significant, but it is necessary to allow them to continue to provide the good service they provide for all the customers of the hackney trade in the borough.
“The maintenance and overall running costs of hackney vehicles, as well as the purchase costs, is very expensive and hackneys are an independent small business in their own right.
“They need to be allowed to generate a suitable level from their fares to maintain that business.”
Paul James from Unite said the union was happy with the considerations made by the council.
He added that they were “overwhelmingly” in favour of the hackney trade, to allow it to move forward.
Labour councillor Jeanie Bell, cabinet member for community safety, backed the rise.
Coun Bell said: “I think the drivers do an excellent job in difficult circumstances. They work very hard.
“We’re very lucky in St Helens that we have a lot of drivers that are licensed here and undergo quite a rigorous process to be able to do so.
“I think the least they can expect is a fair salary for a fair day’s work.”
Currently, St Helens rates are the 320th cheapest in the country, out of 370 authorities.
With the rise, St Helens will be the 298th cheapest in the country.
The licensing and environmental protection committee approved the proposed hackney rate rise.