TAXI drivers are in short supply in Cheshire East because nearly 150 quit when their trade was badly affected by the pandemic.

Kim Evans, licensing team leader at the council, said this was a regional and national issue and London was down about 4,000 drivers.

“When the night-time economy was shut down through various lockdowns, that obviously had an impact on how much money they were able to bring in,” she said.

“Was it worth them staying, was it worth them renewing licences when, compounded by that, the online ordering and then deliveries of those online orders massively went up?”

She said many opted for delivery driving jobs instead and hadn’t returned to taxis.

The matter was being discussed at a meeting of Cheshire East’s licensing committee on Monday, where the council was looking at increasing some fees and charges for Hackney Carriage and private hire vehicles.

Mrs Evans said there were no plans to increase the fees for drivers’ licences.

“Whether that's to grant or renewal, we're not proposing to increase those this year,” she said. “Although this is probably a very modest thing that we can do, it's one of the things that we can do to try and ensure that new applicants do come forward.”

But she said some fees and charges would have to go up.

“The fees that we charge need to cover the cost of service provision,” said Mrs Evans. “That includes staffing costs, that includes cost of materials for plates, all of the ancillary things around the licensing regime that you can imagine.

“So we have still proposed increases in the other types of licences that are there - the vehicle licences, the operator licences, and then some increases in the test fees as well and vehicle testing fees.”

At present a Hackney Carriage or private hire vehicle licence is £315 a year. The proposal is to increase that to £320.

The test fee would also increase by £5 from £80 to £85.

And it is proposed a five-year private hire operator’s licence would increase from £360 to £375.

All these and other proposed charges will have to be advertised and consulted on.

The committee voted to confirm the proposed fees and authorised the licensing team leader to publish them.

It also agreed that delegated authority be given to the director of environment and neighbourhood services to consider any objections received and determine the final fees payable in consultation with the chairman of the licensing committee.