In an early Christmas present for consumers, Highland taxi fares will be pegged at the current tariffs, at least over the festive period.
Councillors at the Highland licensing committee agreed that for this statutory fare review, they would recommend that the status quo should remain across all five tariffs.
Their recommendation will now go forward for public consultation and be finalised by the licensing committee in February.
The only change proposed to the status quo is that the ‘soiling charge’ should be raised from £100 to £120, with drivers able to charge up to that price according to the damage caused.
Around 16 taxi drivers from across the trade attended yesterday’s meeting, with most in favour of pegging the tariffs.
Resolutely against the status quo, and pitching for a 20% increase was Sneckie Taxis, led by director Raymond Munro.
Unlike other taxi firms, Mr Munro employs his 40 drivers on contracts.
Mr Munro told the meeting the amount his firm is seeking is not unreasonable compared to other regions.
He drew comparisons with Moray, East Lothian, Fife, Glasgow and Aberdeen citing Highland as having the lowest rates.
He said: “In Moray they charge £30 for a ten mile fare, we currently get £20.20.
“We want to go up to £24.20.
“It’s not greed, it’s asking to be paid the going rate and the same prices as elsewhere.”
Inverness Taxi Alliance chairman Andrew MacDonald said the real problem was the ever-increasing number of licences being handed out by the council.
He said: “The public interest will not be served by an increase in fares at this time.
“The trade is being brought to its knees by the number of cars that are running around and the proliferation of private hire companies, but the willingness to discuss the number of licenses is not there.”
Mr MacDonald said his company, Black Mercedes, and another firm, Caley Taxis, did not trust that the tariffs would remain pegged after the public consultation, so had already put a game plan into action.
They have invited their own customers and people who use taxis as a lifeline to phone in and receive a free journey.
The idea is that during the journey, customers would discuss their best route and times and agree a fare with the operators guaranteed until the next tariff review in roughly 18 month’s time.
Mr MacDonald said: “It’s to establish a fair scale. We made the offer before the review and it stands irrespective.”