Diesel costs hit Falkirk cabbies hard

Taxi fares in Falkirk could rise again in April as drivers insist they cannot earn a living due to soaring diesel costs.

Falkirk Council’s environment and community safety committee recommended on Tuesday that the initial charge should increase by 20p, with a six per cent hike in the running mile.

The proposed rise follows hot on the heels of a price increase of three per cent in February and committee members expressed their concern that this would have the biggest impact on the poorest members of the community.

But taxi driver Roy Kerr told the meeting that cab drivers too were facing poverty wages as fuel costs rocketed.

Mr Kerr said: “It’s very difficult to make a living – it’s almost impossible to get into a taxi rank at the weekend.

“We have taxi drivers who are out working all night and making less than £3 an hour. If it wasn’t for the working tax credits, many of them would struggle to make enough to support their families.”

Mr Kerr pointed out that in 2009 when fares took a steep hike, diesel was £4.78 per gallon but in February this year it was £6.10 and since then prices have crept up to around £6.20, with the government planning a four-pence increase in duty in January.

He later told the Falkirk Herald that national figures show taxis in the Falkirk Council area are the 11th cheapest in the country –with fares ranked 351st out of 362 local authority areas.

The meeting also agreed to look at putting a cap on the number of taxi plates allowed in the town, something Mr Kerr has campaigned for for 10 years.

“It wil be a good morale boost for drivers,” he said.

Nearly half of all taxi operators had responded to a letter from the council, asking if they were in favour of a cap, and 95 per cent of them were.

The first step will be to get an independent taxi demand survey and operators have agreed to foot half of the bill for this, estimated at between £10,000 and £20,000.

“This shows the strength of feeling there is out there,” said the SNP’s Steven Jackson, as politicians from both sides of the divide agreed to take the plans forward.

Taxi drivers at the meeting were also pleased when the committee agreed to formalise the Taxi Forum, with proper minutes published online after every meeting.

The new format will also mean representatives of the public, including disabled people and local businesses who rely on taxis, will be able to have a say on how they run in Falkirk.