Limit on number of Luton Hackney Carriage taxis set to remain in place as drivers struggle with cost of living crisis

The council has said that local demand is already being met

By Euan Duncan
Friday, 17th June 2022, 12:24 pm

The number of Hackney Carriage vehicle licences issued in Luton borough will continue to be limited – after the council established local demand is being met.

And one Independent councillor questioned why the council would want to add more vehicles to Luton while taxi drivers are struggling to earn money amid the cost of living crisis.

Dallow councillor Abbas Hussain said: “All of us know how the Hackney and private hire trade has been affected during the pandemic.

Hackney cab sign

“The other thing to consider is the fuel cost. It’s hitting and even topping £2 a litre. The cost of living is another issue. And we could be going into a recession within months.

“These poor drivers have to earn money and pay for their families and vehicles, as well.

“Why would members here want to add extra vehicles and more pollution to Luton at the present time?”

The policy has been in place in the town since 1994 and currently restricts these vehicles operating in Luton to 170.

A report and presentation by independent transport consultants commissioned by Luton Borough Council’s licensing service assessed whether issuing more licences locally is appropriate.

The LVSA (a joint trading name of CTS Traffic and Transportation and Vector Transport Consultancy) submitted the report to the council’s administration and regulation committee.

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LBC’s strategic regulatory manager Tony Ireland told the committee: “If the council wishes to maintain a limit on the number of licences it’s required to do a survey to see if there’s any unmet demand.

“This comes round every three to four years,” he explained. “A survey and report were completed in 2019 prior to all of the upset with the pandemic.

“We need to have a current assessment by yourselves. As we move towards a new normal, that data we have from 2019 is all we can rely on currently.

“The unmet demand dropped even further during the pandemic, and is only starting to increase now. There’s no significant unmet demand.

“There are three options. You can maintain a limit, you could decide there would be a managed process to release extra (licence) plates, or you could remove the limit altogether.

“We’re looking probably at doing the next survey towards the end of 2023 or early 2024 to get the current picture.

“To maintain a limit, you need to make a decision today,” he added. “If not, the effect of that is to lift the limit and allow free trade for anyone wishing to apply for a licence.”

There were 165 Hackney Carriages operating in the town at the time of the survey, and 938 private hire vehicles.

Councillor Hussain said: “It would be a bad idea to do nothing. Go with option one and start the survey in September 2024.

“Option one with the survey to start in September 2024, that falls in line with the Luton direct air-rail transit (DART) and the airport being up and running.”

Councillors agreed to maintain the current limit on Hackney Carriage licences, and to chart progress over beginning a new survey in September 2023.