Taxi fares in Northumberland could rise for the first time in five years.
Local authorities are responsible for setting the maximum tariffs that can be charged by hackney carriages, but the last increase by Northumberland County Council was in 2013.
Following a request to raise those maximum charges, the issue was discussed by the council’s licensing and regulatory committee, which heard that a consultation of drivers received very few responses and those that did reply had mixed views about increasing the fares.
Any proposed hike is further complicated by the fact that the tariffs in Northumberland are ‘a minefield’ and ‘a headache’ due to the fact that they were set by the old district councils, meaning there are significant differences across the county.
Not only does this apply to the various tariffs at different times of the day, but also additional fees such as for larger vehicles for more than four passengers and soiling charges.
For example, the current maximum charge for a 10-mile, daytime journey is £11.70 in Alnwick, £14.20 in Blyth, £14.50 in Tynedale, £15.90 in Berwick, £16.10 in Wansbeck and £16.50 in Castle Morpeth.
Coun Catherine Seymour suggested raising the lower charges while keeping the higher ones as they are with the aim of eventually making them the same across the six former districts.
“It doesn’t seem quite fair to me,” she added. “It seems like a huge difference.”
Coun Trevor Cessford said: “It’s going to be practically impossible to standardise this, but we could make a start with the tariffs, for example, so they all start at a certain time.
“You couldn’t suddenly start to charge Alnwick people £16.50 when they are currently paying £11.70 for a 10-mile trip.”
Blyth Valley is the only zone which has additional tariffs for larger vehicles, but Coun Cessford felt that this should be the case everywhere.
Coun Wendy Pattison said: “We have been one authority for eight years and I think it’s time we go about equalising everything.”
Council officers were asked to produce a detailed proposal for how the tariffs could be increased or amended based on what was discussed by the committee.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service