TAXI drivers struggling to cope with soaring fuel prices have said fare rises imposed by Harrogate Borough Council will threaten their livelihoods.
They claim the rise in charges of just three per cent for a five-mile journey will mean they could be put out of business.
The drivers argue they needed an increase of seven per cent just to break even - something which has been agreed in Manchester this month.
Kevin O’Boyle, who owns Central Taxis and used to be chairman of Harrogate’s taxi association, said: “Everyone’s got bills to pay. Unfortunately what happens is people put more hours in.
“It’s not uncommon for a taxi driver to work 80 hours and I know some doing 100 hours. You used to have a clear division of those working days and those working nights. Now they’re both having to do both.
“Sunday was usually a driver’s day off - there would only be a handful of taxis out. Now you can’t get on any taxi ranks in town.
“It’s a crazy situation at the moment.”
Coun Les Ellington, cabinet member of public protection and rural affairs, set the new rates at the end of March. They include a 10p increase on the amount on the meter at the start of the journey, known as the flag fall - just half of the 20p the taxi drivers had requested.
But Coun Ellington said a 20p increase would take the town’s taxi fares from 30th most expensive to sixth in the national league, featuring 300 local authorities.
He agreed a reduction in the distance travelled before the tariff changes, hoping to offset the increasing cost of fuel while keeping fares reasonable for passengers. The new fares came into effect last week despite the objections of the town’s taxi drivers.
Mr O’Boyle said Harrogate was at one point seventh in the league tables, and argued these were misleading anyway, as they were only calculated on how much each authority charged for the first two miles of a journey.
He said: “There are so many permutations that, for example, we’re now on £1.75 a mile. There are a number of councils on £2 a mile who are behind us in the league table. Within a month that could all change anyway.”
Mr O’Boyle also called for decisions to be made by the licensing committee, as they used to be, rather than by an individual cabinet member.