Taxi chiefs report council to Ombudsman over ‘ludicrous’ handling of advertising blunder

TAXI chiefs have this week reported Fenland District Council to the Local Government Ombudsman after attacking their handling of an advertising blunder as “ludicrous”.

This newspaper revealed last month that Fenland District Council’s failure to advertise increases in vehicle and operator licence fees could see the district’s taxi and private hire drivers share a �100,000 windfall.

Some drivers could be owed more than �400 in compensation but the council has asked all claimants to provide receipts, licences, applications and log books - some of which date back six years.

A council spokesman said FDC had to ensure they had evidence to support any claim and that they were doing “all we can to finalise the claims as soon as possible”.

But Bryan Roland, General Secretary of the National Private Hire Association (NPHA), said: “Among the things the council has asked for is a copy of the original licence application for the correct year. If you fill in an application then you hand it in don’t you? How’s anybody going to have that?

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“This has been going on for months now. The council has still not advertised the fees so they are still breaking the law.

“I’m taking it to the Ombudsman this week. We will do this on the request of our members and on the basis that this is just ludicrous.”

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A 35-year-old law means councils must advertise rises in “at least one local newspaper” if the licence fee exceeds �25. The current cost of a vehicle licence in Fenland is �115.

The council has failed to advertise licence hikes in more than a decade but, under the statute, drivers are entitled to compensation for the fees paid in the last six years.

Councillor Dave Patrick, Chairman of Wisbech and District Taxi Drivers’ Association, said the council should already have the documents they have asked for on file.

He said: “I believe that the council are doing everything they can to avoid having to make the payments.

“I’ve got better things to do than run around fighting taxi issues with the council every five minutes - there’s people in my constituency that I could be looking after.”

The council spokesman said there was “no question” of FDC trying to avoid payments and that they were disappointed that the NPHA had gone to the Ombudsman.

The spokesman added: “The fees will be advertised in a local newspaper next week.”

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