At a meeting of Scottish Borders Council’s executive committee today, April 16, councillors voted to approve proposals to allow the region’s 111 taxi operators to increase their fares by 3.7% if they wish to.
The new charges will mean a 10-mile journey in a taxi for up to four passengers will rise from £19.59 to £20.32 during the day and from £24.49 to £25.40 late at night and early in the morning.
The council assesses taxi fares annually using a formula taking into account the cost of vehicles, fuel, and insurance.
This will be the first rise in the Borders since one of 4% in the financial year 2014-15.
Despite the formula showing an increase is on the cards this year, several councillors expressed reservations.
Kelso councillor Tom Weatherston believes taxis in the Borders are already expensive in comparison to the rest of Scotland, saying: “I compared us to other authorities, and I found that we’ve probably got the highest taxi fares in Scotland.
“What concerns me is the flag rate, the distance you can go before the meter kicks in. In other areas, they can go much further before the meter kicks in.”
Galashiels councillor Euan Jardine claimed that the price rise will hit vulnerable people the hardest, saying: “For the most vulnerable in society, this is going to push up the expense of getting around.
“I was at a lunch club the other day, and there was an elderly lady there. She said she can’t walk far and has to get taxis everywhere.
“Say she’s going to the shops, she’s spending an extra 20p on this, she forgets her bags, has to get another 10p for carrier bags, and these little things add up.
“There’s some elderly people who will have this just eating away at their fixed income.
“I know this has to go through, but I’m against this altogether as it does harm the most vulnerable people.”
A motion by Mr Jardine to put the increase on hold temporarily failed to attract support.
The taxi fare increase will now be put to a public consultation, the results of which will go before the council in June.
During that period, taxi operators will have the opportunity to appeal against the increase agreed, but if none do so, it could be introduced as early as September.
Council officers also confirmed that taxi operators must pay to have the new rates installed on their meters by a professional at a cost of upwards of £30 per vehicle.