The below story was first written in the Taxi & Private Hire Monthly magazine.

Taxi drivers in Plymouth will see the cost of their licences rise by up to 20 per cent next year – and fear they may have to work longer hours or take a pay cut to make ends meet.

With the number of new drivers falling all the time, council bosses are trying to address a looming budget crisis, warning they are currently spending more than is coming in.

The changes will affect drivers of both black cabs and private hire vehicles.

The cost of a Hackney carriage licence will jump from £182 to £210 per year, while a private hire licence goes from £97 to £117.
Plymouth City Council says the fees have not been increased for many years and the accounts are heading for a deficit.

But cabbies are not happy with the change.

One said a 15 per cent hike is “completely unacceptable” when inflation stands at two per cent.

Another driver added: “The increased prices are disproportionately high compared with taxi drivers’ earnings and inflation.

“To fund for the increase, drivers would need to overcharge passengers, accept lower earnings or work longer hours. This is unreasonable.”

In 2015/16 there were 108 new private hire drivers – this dropped to 59 last year.

The council says its taxi accounts, currently recording a surplus, will be thousands of pounds in the red within three years if nothing is done.

A Plymouth City Council spokesman said: “Plymouth currently has one of the lowest licence fees for taxi drivers in the South West and will continue to do so even with the planned increases in our fees.

“We have not increased our taxi licensing fees since 2012 and are only increasing the charges to reflect the cost of the taxi licensing operation.

“The purpose of licensing is to safeguard the public by ensuring vehicles are safe, reliable and comfortable, operators are efficient and that drivers are ‘fit and proper’ to transport fare paying customers safely.

“We are currently reviewing the way we operate which includes looking at putting applications online. We will continue to make savings where we can, however the charges have to be increased to ensure we cover our costs.”