A CONTROVERSIAL proposal to increase taxi fares and alter night hours was approved by councillors last week.

A unanimous vote at Wednesday’s licensing meeting saw Barnsley Hackney Carriage Association (BHCA) win approval of their bid to raise the base rate by 40p and to extend night hours to start at 8pm rather than 11pm.

The changes are hoped to bring fares in line with private hire competitors and to encourage more drivers to work unsociable hours - hours which need ‘incentivising as it is increasingly hard to get taxi drivers to work them’, according to the BHCA.

Their original proposals were initially rejected by the licensing board, citing a lack of evidence, and was readdressed after the BHCA submitted further evidence.

The approval comes following a public consultation period which ran from October 1 for two weeks, which only garnered seven responses - four against, two in favour and one general comment.

Speaking at the meeting, Coun David Greenhough said: “Having held a taxi license myself, I know how much a taxi driver has to earn to make money for themselves after paying the tremendous expenses.

“It can be a very hard way to make a living.

“When I look at the case put forward, these aren’t just good requests, they are very reasonable requests.

“I fully support these going ahead.”

Coun Steve Hunt added: “On the analysis of fuel price increases alone, the increase is justified.

“The evidence supplied also shows they are running below competitor prices and therefore an increase is once again justified.

“We have a brand new multi-million pound town centre complex - what if once people have been for a night out - they can’t get home safely for lack of taxis?

“We need these changes to encourage more drivers to work unsociable hours and get people home safely at night.”

Despite voting in favour, Coun Margaret Bruff voiced her concerns for the implications for older taxi users.

She said: “I do have some concerns which I will voice on behalf of my residents.

“By residents I’m talking about people of a certain age who won’t be out in town late at night but who do use taxis during the day for other things.

“Residents who can’t drive and don’t live close to a bus stop need taxis to be able to do their shopping and run errands.

“These are people whose pensions haven’t increased whilst wages have - they don’t have the money to be spending more and more on taxis.

“I’m speaking on behalf of those people rather than the nightlife in town.

“I do agree with the rise in some respects but I just wish it wasn’t quite as big of an increase.

“It needs to happen but it does need to take everyone into consideration.”