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Swale council consulting to increase taxi fees to the dismay of Rushenden firm iCars

By Poppy Jeffery

A taxi firm has hit out at Swale council after it was announced some fees could be hiked to more than four times what they used to be.

The changes, which are currently under consultation, would affect the cost of everything from licencing to taking knowledge exams, but wouldn’t affect taxi fares.

One substantial increase is the price companies must pay for a private hire operator licence, valid for five years, which could increase from £100 to £430.

Tony Stevens from iCars

Tony Stevens from iCars

Tony Stevens, owner of Rushenden-based iCars, said: “Every taxi or private hire vehicle company is affected.

“There’s no proposals to increase fares and for us to absorb these costs you’re looking at £5,000 a year more.

“If they have been running on these costs for the last five or six years then how can they justify it going up?”

Tony Stevens, of taxi business iCars, Argent Road, Rushenden

Tony Stevens, of taxi business iCars, Argent Road, Rushenden

Taxi fares pay the wages of the drivers as well as the going towards the running costs, but drivers haven’t seen a pay rise in three years.

“It shouldn’t be a money making department but I’m quite lucky that we’re quite busy and I can hopefully swallow that £5,000 but if you’re an independent it’s very different,” he added.

“It’s the underhand and sneaky way they’ve done it.”

Swale House, headquarters of Swale Borough Council in East Street, Sittingbourne

Swale House, headquarters of Swale Borough Council in East Street, Sittingbourne

The council has defended its decision to review the fees.

A spokesman said: “Taxi fees and charges have not been reviewed for more than five years, and the proposed increases were agreed last November by the full council, subject to the current consultation which is a chance for drivers and operators to raise any objections.

“We don’t make any profit from the service we provide, and the fees have been calculated based on the time and cost of the activities we undertake to provide the service.

“The proposed fees were also reviewed against other Kent districts to ensure they are proportional and in line with the fees they charge.”

The consultation ends on Wednesday, July 19.

To give feedback or object to the changes, email taxifees@swale.gov.uk

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