Taximeters get green light as Fenland councillors shrug off 500-signature petition

TAXIMETERS will be installed in Fenland’s hackney carriages after councillors shrugged off a 500-signature petition today.

Councillors were presented with the petition, which objected to the fitting of taximeters, at today’s meeting of Fenland District Council.

Lisa Corbett, speaking on behalf of Bev’s Taxis in Wisbech, said that, in a survey they had conducted, 500 people voted against meters with only five in favour.

She said: “We are in a very deep recession and I will quote council leader Alan Melton himself who said that times are tough and money is tight.

“Do you honestly believe the public want to pay extra for taxis? I am calling on you to defer this decision and give this petition the weight it deserves.”

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But a recommendation to adopt the new Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Policy was approved, with only Independents Mark Archer and Virginia and Michael Bucknor voting against the plans.

Councillor Kit Owen, FDC’s portfolio holder for transport, said the old charging policies were “outdated” and taximeters would create “a level playing field for all hackney carriage drivers”.

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He said meters would prevent overcharging and taxi drivers would still have the option of choosing to charge customers less than the price displayed.

Cllr Owen quashed pleas from Councillors Archer and Virginia Bucknor for the council to defer the decision to allow more consultation with taxi drivers.

Cllr Virginia Bucknor said: “My experience is that in 26 years of living in Wisbech I have never been overcharged, in fact sometimes I’ve been quite shocked at how little I was charged.

“With roadworks now in Wisbech there will be a lot of traffic around the main roundabouts. I know so many people use taxis to go shopping especially from the villages.

“When meters are introduced it’s going to put the fares up. If they get held up in the middle of Wisbech, as is inevitable, the fare will be increased.

“I’m not saying this for political reasons, it’s for the people who use them. I’m absolutely convinced that it’s going to put the price up at the very worst time when they can’t afford it.”

Councillor Philip Hatton spoke in support of taximeters, claiming that he had been a victim of overcharging, which was “rife” in the district.

Meters will be installed in all hackney carriages by April.

Wisbech & District Hackney Carriage Drivers’ Association Chairman Councillor Dave Patrick, who was absent from the debate because of the conflict of interest, said the decision opposed public feeling.

He said: “They have not listened to the public’s wishes. I believe that the decision reached today will see some taxi drivers charging the full amount displayed on the meter.

“This will discourage customers in these tight financial times and make the livelihood of taxi drivers more difficult.”

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