A FIRST rise in taxi fares for seven and a half years was rejected by councillors after a passionate debate from divided drivers on Monday.
Supporters of the increase for Adur taxi drivers argued their proposals would help drivers cope with the cost of living.
But critics at the meeting of Adur District Council’s licensing committee argued the rise would be ‘greed-driven commercial suicide’.
Proposing the rise Jonathan Campfield, chairman of Adur Hackney Licensed Drivers, said: “Seven and a half years is a long time to wait for a fare rise, being one of the most expensive places in the country to live. “Some drivers are paying £800 or £900 on rent.”
The current maximum tariff is £2.80 for the first 600 yards or two minutes, 44 seconds of the journey. An extra 20p is charged for subsequent distances of 176 yards, or 48 seconds.
Under the proposed charges, the initial 200 yards, or 48 seconds, would cost £3, with 20p extra for each subsequent 150 yards, or 36 seconds.
An additional £1 surcharge between 10pm and 6am on any day, and all day on Sundays and bank holidays, would be continued but would be introduced at 9pm.
Hourly waiting times would rise from £16.80 to £20.
The proposals came after two previous rejected increases, in 2011 and 2014.
The increase was put to councillors after a postal ballot of 78 taxi drivers.
A total of 35 responded, with 26 for and nine against.
Driver Sean Ridley, who opposed the plans, said they would make Adur taxis the most expensive in Sussex.
He said: “We are near the top of the tariff league and to put us further and dearest in Sussex shows an inherent disrespect, not for the trade, but for the customer, the public, the electorate and charge payers.”
Mr Ridley added that increasing the current charges, which put Adur 27th highest in the country alongside 11 other authorities, would be ‘greed-driven, commercial suicide’.
But Mr Campfield said the fees only represented a rise of around 50p on a £5 fare and £1 on a £10 cost.
He argued that the increase would help young drivers who had families and rent to pay, with Adur an expensive area to live.
He noted how some drivers had significant weekly costs of around £450, with costs of repairing vehicles spiking significantly.
He said Hackey drivers were disadvantaged, as the private hire industry was free to charge what it liked.
But councillors questioned why a significant reduction in tariff yardages, coupled with the higher prices, was needed.
While many agreed with aspects of the proposals, such as waiting time increases, they could not accept the application as a whole.
The rise was rejected by five votes to one, with one abstention.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Campfield said he was ‘incredibly disappointed’ and planned to submit an alternative application.
He suggested the job was not viable under the current rates, unless drivers worked up to 70-hour weeks to earn a living.
Mr Ridley called the decision a ‘triumph for common sense’ because customers were struggling financially.