Taxi drivers want a council to explain why their licensing fees – which they say are already among the highest in their region – are about to rise again when the service they receive is “appalling”.

Taxi and private hire drivers registered with Dudley Council are unhappy that their fees will increase by 2.3% from April 1. Both taxi and PHV drivers currently pay £475 for a three-year licence, on top of their taxi insurance and rising fuel costs.

The BBC reports they feel even more aggrieved that the same licences cost £98 in neighbouring Wolverhampton and £352 in Sandwell. In Birmingham, prices vary depending on the type of vehicle being licensed, but fees are about £200 – £275 cheaper than Dudley.

‘Ridiculous fees’

Drivers are so unhappy about the increase that some are considering moving to a different authority.

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Shaz Saleem, of Dudley Private Hire and Taxi Association, told the BBC: “I appreciate the council hasn’t put fees up for a number of years, but the service level is appalling. The fees are ridiculous, there is no service – I would like to know how they justify it.”

Mr Saleem added that drivers face long waits for applications and payments to be processed. He also hit out at “extra vehicle checks” carried out by the council which he said are “unnecessary and expensive”.

He added: “No other council does this – it’s bonkers, they have no understanding of the taxi world.”

Safety first

Dudley Council hit back at the claims, insisting that it always put safety first and mistakes on drivers’ paperwork often caused delays.

Council leader Patrick Harley told the BBC: “It is complete and utter rubbish to suggest drivers are moving out of Dudley. In fact, the opposite is true.

“We had 1,570 drivers licensed with us in January, which is 105 more than at the same time last year.”

He said hold-ups in the licensing process were often due to drivers not supplying the correct paperwork or details or failing their knowledge test or driving assessment.

He added: “I think the public would back us in making sure we are doing regular checks to make sure the vehicles they are travelling in are safe.”

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Out-of-town

The Dudley row highlights an issue that has been bubbling up for several months in Manchester.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has regularly and robustly spoken out against “out-of-town” working in which PHV drivers operate outside the area they are licensed in.

He takes particular issue with those operating in Greater Manchester when they are registered in Wolverhampton, often because of cheaper licensing fees.

He has continued to press the issue and The Bolton News reports he has had verbal confirmation from shadow transport minister Louise Haigh that the practice would be stopped under a Labour government.

Mr Burnham told BBC Radio Manchester: “[On] out-of-area working — the ‘Wolverhampton Problem’ — I got a firm commitment from the shadow transport secretary that out-of-area working will be stopped under a Labour government.”

A Labour spokesperson has confirmed the pledge. They said: “As Labour has already outlined, we will ensure there are minimum licensing standards across local authorities, for taxi and private hire vehicles, including for the safety of passengers, to address the abuse of cross-border hiring.”

Mr Burnham and other Greater Manchester leaders have previously raised concerns about safety and standards after discovering that 9,000 — more than a third — of private-hire drivers operating in Greater Manchester are licensed in Wolverhampton. They fear drivers face less scrutiny, which could put passengers at risk.

Wolverhampton Council has denied the claims, insisting it has strict and rigorous checks. It said enforcement officers travel across the country to ensure drivers are adhering to the terms of their licences, and its officers recently carried out spot-checks in London and at Manchester Airport.

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Information correct at time of publication. Information provided within this article may have changed over time. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by John Patons Insurance Services or any of its employees.