A PRE-Christmas rise in taxi fares in the Taunton and Minehead areas has been blocked after eight people submitted objections to the council.

Irate cabbies say there has not been an increase in the past 11 years, despite spiralling vehicle insurance and fuel costs.

A taxi firm had requested permission for the rise from the licensing department at Somerset West and Taunton Council ahead of the festive season.

But the council has now put off the decision until into the New Year following opposition voiced during a consultation period that ended on Monday (December 6).

Robin Colclough, spokesperson for The Taunton Taxi Drivers and Owners Association, said a 12 per cent fare rise proposed by SWT was agreed with the trade.

He added: "The trade was hoping this increase would go through with no objection and the increase would be available for the Christmas and New Year period.

"To discover that, following eight objections, the licensing department must now present the proposal to the executive committee and they will not meet until January 19 is very disheartening.

"The increase is desperately needed to go some way to cover the increased costs associated with running a taxi business.

"The trade is dealing with at least two of the main drivers behind inflation, namely fuel and commercial insurance. Vehicle insurance has increased by more than 40 per cent in the last 11 years, fuel has increased by more than 30 per cent in the last six months.

"On top of this, you have all the other costs going up in line with inflation - tyres, servicing, repairs and maintenance have all increased hugely since the trade's last pay rise. We can no longer keep paying all these higher prices without some increase in the money we earn."

Mr Colclough conceded that "money is tight" due to Brexit and the pandemic, but he knows of nobody who has not had a pay rise in 11 years, while the last 18 months has seen many drivers leave the industry, while those who remain have seen company profits wiped out following "months of little or no work".

He added: "The proposed fare increase would be a godsend for us and allow us to replace essential backup funds and go a small way to paying for the increase in everything we need to operate.

"If this increase does not go through or is drastically cut back then the trade in this town will continue to dwindle and, we're convinced, will eventually die.

"A business with the overheads we deal with cannot run without a realistic and sensible income. There is little or no chance of attracting new drivers into the trade when they are often struggling to match the minimum wage."

An SWT spokesperson said a public consultation was held into a local taxi firm's request for a fares increase.

They added: "It was also an opportunity to align taxi tariffs between the two former districts of Taunton Deane and West Somerset, which remain unchanged since 2010 and 2011 respectively.

"Adoption of the proposed table of fares along with the eight objections received will be considered by elected councillors at an executive meeting scheduled for January 19.”