Taxi fares set to increase

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A 15 per cent increase to maximum taxi fares in Argyll and Bute has moved a step closer after it was unanimously agreed by councillors.

The council’s planning, protective services and licensing committee decided on the increase on Wednesday January 19 after reviewing feedback from taxi operators across the area.

However, only 16 responses were received from Argyll and Bute’s 106 taxi operators after a letter was sent out in October requesting their views.

The current tariffs are a starting fare of £3 from 7am to 10pm, £3.60 from 10pm to 7am, and £4.20 on public holidays.

The law requires fares to be reviewed – though not necessarily to be changed – every two years, and the last fare increase in Argyll and Bute took place in 2014.

The proposed increased fares will now be advertised for further responses and the committee will consider the feedback at its meeting on Wednesday, March 23.

Council solicitor Graeme McMillan said: ‘We have explained that due to the responses received, although they are only from approximately 17 per cent of the trade, there are a number of options.

‘One of these is that a minority of respondents have suggested no change to fares, but most proposed an increase. There are a number of proposals for members to consider.’

Councillor Richard Trail (SNP, Helensburgh and Lomond South) said: ‘I think we should increase the fares. It is seven years or more that fares have been static, and as taxi drivers are pointing out, fuel prices have gone up.

‘I would think that maybe something like a 15 per cent rise would be appropriate.

‘The range of increases being suggested is of a range between zero and 30 per cent, so somewhere in the middle would do.’

Councillor Rory Colville (Liberal Democrat, South Kintyre) said: ‘Having listened to Mr McMillan, I would not be against increasing tariff one. I note that West Dunbartonshire is a lot less and we don’t want a taxi war breaking out in our own area.

‘But I do not think increasing tariff one would create any grief. I note that my own area suggests no increase, but all things considered, I would go along with the suggestion we increase by 20 per cent.’

But Councillor George Freeman (Independent, Lomond North) responded: ‘I cannot believe we would try to justify increasing one tariff for a certain time of day while other tariffs are left as they are.

‘If we are going to apply an increase then it has to be across the board.’

The committee’s chairman, Councillor David Kinniburgh (Conservative, Helensburgh and Lomond South) said: ‘The only concern I had was the closeness of Helensburgh and Lomond to West Dunbartonshire, because a firm from West Dunbartonshire is one of the operators in Helensburgh and Lomond.

‘However, officers have addressed that and I am happy to propose an increase of 15 per cent across the board.’

Councillor Graham Hardie (Liberal Democrat, Helensburgh Central) had said at the start of the discussion that he did not think fares should be increased.

But after listening to the discussion, he then said: ‘I was not aware we did not have to charge the maximum amount, so I take back what I said and am happy with the motion being proposed.’

Oban North and Lorn Independent Councillor Kieron Green seconded the motion, which was approved unanimously.