Anger as Wokingham taxi fee freeze offer is crushed
Anger followed the offer to freeze license fees for evicted taxi drivers in Wokingham.
At a licensing and appeals committee meeting earlier this year, it was suggested that fees for licensed taxi drivers in Wokingham should be frozen.
Previously, the license fee for carriages and private drivers was £ 248 but has since been increased from £ 42 to £ 290 for this fiscal year (2021/22).
There have been discussions of an increase in March 2020, but these appear to have been reversed due to the impact of the pandemic.
Yet an offer to keep the license fee at £ 248 appears to have been ignored by the Wokingham Borough Council executive committee.
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At a meeting of the Permits and Appeals Committee in June, Councilor Rachel Burgess (Labor, Norreys) offered to freeze license fees for private rental vehicles a second time.
She also suggested that any driver who paid the higher £ 290 fee should be reimbursed the extra £ 42 they paid, in a motion which was seconded by Cllr Sarah Kerr (Liberal Democrats, Evendons) and passed .
But when Cllr Kerr asked if the taxi drivers had been reimbursed, it was claimed the suggestion was never properly decided by the council executive.
This was revealed at the license meeting yesterday (Wednesday October 21).
Responding to Cllr Kerr’s question, Stephen Brown, Acting Deputy Director of Wokingham Borough Council, said: “The short answer is no. The executive decided that it would not continue to subsidize the taxi license and that it would revert to the rates originally purchased, so there was no refund. ”
Cllr Kerr replied, “When was this decision made? We did not know that the executive had rejected a recommendation from this committee.
Sean Murphy, head of public protection, said: “We have taken that out as a suggestion, because it is obviously not for this committee to set a fee or reduce the fee, it is only for the committee to recommend something. thing.
“We took it away and there was no appetite to accept it.”
Cllr Kerr said: “I understand that we are not making a decision, we are making recommendations but it should have been formally addressed to the executive, and for there to be no public meeting to decide otherwise. Something doesn’t smell here, sorry. ”
Committee chairman Barrie Patman (Tory, Shinfield South) has called for an investigation into how the decision was made.
In a statement to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Cllr Burgess, who proposed the license fee subsidy, said: “Taxi drivers have been hit hard by the pandemic, many of them unable to work for long periods of time. periods. On top of that, their license fees have been increased. Considering everything they’ve been through, with some resorting to food banks and many struggling to make ends meet, freezing their fees was the right thing to do and was fully supported by the licensing committee.
“It is just not realistic or fair to expect our drivers to be able to afford fees at this level when for much of the past 18 months they have not been able to work. paid license fees during the pandemic for work they largely weren’t able to do, and now they’re expected to pay even more.
“The Conservative leadership did not even have the courage to discuss the recommendation at a public executive meeting. Instead, the recommendation of the licensing committee appears to have simply been ignored. A recommendation that would not be not important for board finances – but would be important for individual drivers.
“Besides the impact on drivers and their families, this decision not to discuss the licensing committee’s recommendation undermines democracy in Wokingham Borough Council. The executive has the right to vote against a recommendation from a What he has no right to do is pretend we don’t exist, which is shameful.
Wokingham Borough Council has been asked to make a statement on how the decision was made and why the decision to increase fees was made.