NORTH Ayrshire taxi drivers have hit out at the local council after it was revealed that they pay one of the highest fees in Scotland.

In documents obtained by the Herald, they show that a two-mile fare in North Ayrshire is amongst the cheapest in the country but the £580 licence fee is at the upper end.

One driver explained: “A two-mile journey, starts at £9.40 for Luton Airport and by the time you get to North Ayrshire on the list, it’s £4.80.

“Out of 370 councils that were surveyed, we came in at 336, so we’re right down the bottom as far as the price of a two-mile journey goes.

“But the cost of your three-year taxi licence, 348 councils have been surveyed, but only 320 have responded, the dearest is Edinburgh and that is £653, North Ayrshire is £580 and then you have to pay £77 for your taxi test. You’re talking about 280 fares before you start making money and then you have the diesel that those fares cost.

“Edinburgh is a city, more businessmen, more airport runs and there’s is cheaper than ours.”

The figures show the fares and costs for council’s throughout the UK and the drivers believe the disparity is unfair on them and that something needs to be done.

Another driver added: “There’s a taxi driver in Stevenston who has been driving a taxi for more than 35 years, when he started the flag fall fare was 90p, it is now £2.60. If you work that out, it is an average of 5p a year.

“I got my taxi nearly ten years ago and the Megarider was £5.95, it is £11.95 now. It doesn’t get reflected on to the taxis. It is really hard going.

“There is a history of animosity towards us. Motors were getting failed for a torn wiper blade or a bulb being out and that can happen on the way to the test centre. If your taxi fails, they take your plates off you so you can’t work, you then have to go to Irvine to book a retest.

“They charge you £180 to change your car, all they are doing is changing the registration plate number on your licence and they charge if you lose your rates card, it is £25 for a new one.”

North Ayrshire Council refute the claims and say that a full consultation on fees was held with no responses from drivers

A North Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: “We are surprised to hear that a number of taxi drivers have taken issue with the new rates as the scales were agreed with full consultation and input from the taxi operators.

“Indeed, on 13 September 2017, the Licensing Committee proposed scales which were exactly what the taxi trade asked for on 1 September 2017.

“The proposals were then advertised in newspapers for a month, so that anyone – whether taxi operator, taxi driver or the general public - could comment. We received no responses. The Committee then met again on 1 November 2017, when it fixed the scales at exactly what had been proposed and advertised. The procedure for Review of Taxi Fare Scales is set by law and each time that the Licensing Committee met to discuss this the meetings were in public, and the Committee Minutes were then published.

“As to costs of Taxi Licences, each Council sets its own charges with the aim that the overall income from charges should cover overall costs.

“The Law prohibits any Licensing Authority from granting or renewing a Taxi Licence unless the authority is satisfied that the vehicle is safe. That applies throughout Scotland. The same standard applies when Operators change their taxis.

“As such, the Licensing Committee regards public safety as an overriding concern, so once a vehicle reaches five years old, it is required to pass a vehicle inspection every six months. If a vehicle fails to meet the required standards, then the Licensing Committee must put public safety first.

“It is correct that if a vehicle fails a mechanical test, the plate is removed. Otherwise, public safety is being compromised.

“A vehicle substitution costs £187. This cost includes the mechanical test at the Council’s garage, and the cost of re-issuing the Licence plate and the fare card. If a replacement fare card is needed at any other time, this costs £12, not £25.”