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‘We are not getting value for money’ say angry taxi drivers

Taxi drivers across Sheffield have spoken out about the ‘poor’ service provided by Sheffield City Council ‘s licensing department amid proposals to raise fees.

The council's licensing department have proposed to raise fees for taxi drivers for the third time in four years.

Stephen Lonnia, chief licensing officer, proposed raising the cost of renewing taxi licenses from £163 to £173 for the rest of the year.

But across Sheffield drivers have objected, saying while fees have risen, quality in service has declined.

Ibrar Hussain, GMB union rep, attended a licensing committee meeting where the fees were being discussed.

He said: “The whole trade has objected. It’s an extra burden of cost and no one likes things going up but I wouldn’t mind paying extra if we got a better service. We should get what we pay for: a good quality, prompt and correct service. They make too many mistakes that cost our members daily.”

In total, there has been an increase of £20 in the past four years but no increase in the last two.

Mr Lonnia admitted the licensing team was not up to scratch and added they have problems with staffing, especially with the enforcement team.

He said: “I think the level of service has gone down. There have been silly mistakes. We all make mistakes when dealing with paperwork, but I do agree with the trade that if they are paying more then they should get a better service.

“If we are to deliver that better service we need more staff – there’ s a lot of pressure on staff and they are rushing to get things done. But, obviously, if we have more staff it will increase the costs. So it’s a double-edged sword.

"We would also like to do more enforcement to support the people who are licensed because we do have problems with out-of-town vehicles, unlicensed drivers and drivers parking in the wrong place.

"We currently have eight officers but need at least 12 to do a really good job. So there’s lots of issues but unless you can get more staff out there those issues aren’t going to go away.”

Mr Lonnia said the total cost of licensing taxis is £826,000. He explained they work out the fees by totalling the costs of the service and balancing that with income.

He put the increases down to more work and rises in other expenses. He said: “Staffing costs have increased by £60,000 over four years and the coss of materials and photocopying goes up every year. So we have to increase the income.’’ The decision on whether to approve the fee hike was deferred for further discussion to take place.