Another Council forced to refund taxi drivers...how to make sure you advertise your fees properly
Hyndburn Borough Council has agreed to repay hundreds of taxi drivers because the Council has failed for 9 years to advertise increases in taxi licensing fees. To avoid legal action, the COuncil will refund the cash equivalent of the rises paid by private hire and hackney drivers.
A probe into the mistake, which could see some drivers being paid back up to £400, has been launched by Hyndburn Council, sparking a number of disciplinary investigations into council staff and the authority said it had also taken action to prevent a similar mix-up occurring again.
Hyndburn Council leader Miles Parkinson said the blame began in 2004 with the council’s previous Conservative administration.
He said: “Before 2004, these ads had always been published, but when Peter Britcliffe became leader that all stopped. Since this issue came to our attention in 2011 we have investigated our liabilities thoroughly.
“We have come to the conclusion that we must refund these amounts to avoid legal challenges.”
Hyndburn’s Labour MP Graham Jones also said the issue was a historical one.
He said: “It is just typical of the last Conservative administration. They just decided not to bother with these ads. It seems that every month a blunder from the past is being uncovered.”
However opposition leader Mr Britcliffe called for a through disciplinary investigations of the officers involved.
He said: “Considering the council have been looking into this since 2011, I am stunned that I am only hering about it now. I find it amazing I have not been spoken to about this and was only informed by the Lancashire Telegraph.
“The responsibility lies with officers and I would hope that a thorough investigation takes place into why they did not alert councillors.”
Drivers in Union Street, Accrington, yesterday said they were angry at the mistake and they did not feel they were being supported by the council.
Hackney driver Ash Mahmood, 45, said: “It is only fair they pay us back. We have no business left anyway and we are not making very much money.
“It is very, very hard to make a living. The payback won’t be much each but it will make things a bit easier.”
Fellow Hackney driver Mohammed Shabir, 55, said: “When we give our fee to the council, they should be spending it on helping us, but they do nothing.
“We have all been really affected because private firms have dropped their prices and the council says we have to charge a minimum of £3 at night, so we really lose out.
“So it is right that they should give us this money back.”
Unfortunately, Hyndburn Borough Council is by no means the only Council to forget to advertise its fees. Other Council’s included;
Colchester Borough Council has published information on how taxi and private hire drivers there can claim their refunds for wrong advertising dating back to 2003.
Chelmsford City Council (for fees paid after 1 April 2006)
Brentwood Borough Council (financial year 2007/8)
Lichfield District Council (fees paid between 2009 and 2012 - £4000 cost)
Guildford Borough Council (£100,000)
Fenland District Council (for for 10+ years - £10,000)
How can your Council avoid the same fate?
Simply by advertising your fees every year in accordance with the procedure set out in section 70 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976. You are required to advertising your vehicle and operator licence fees if they are set higher than the fees set out in subsection 2 of section 70 (i.e. more than £25 for the grant of a vehicle licence in respect of a hackney carriage or private hire vehicle or £25 per annum for the grant of an operator’s licence).
Even if a Council is not intending on increasing its licence fees in respect of the above, if they are set higher than the quoted fees (under sub-section 2), it is still necessary to advertise them every year.