A taxi boss is claiming victory after winning a refund for hundreds of cabbies across Hyndburn.
Last week the Observer reported Hyndburn council had set aside £210,000 to repay overcharged taxi licensing fees after bosses admitted statutory notices advertising taxi fee hikes had not been placed in the press since 2004.
Talib Zaman, the owner of Max Cabs in Accrington, said he complained to the Audit Commission last summer about the oversight.
He submitted a formal objection against the council’s accounts for 2011/2012 and the council could now be forced to repay the increased portion of licence fees for the last six years.
An Audit Commission investigation is still ongoing and outcomes could include a High Court challenge against the council or a detailed public interest report.
Mr Zaman said he was pleased the council had accepted his objection and realised its mistakes and was acting quickly to issue refunds.
However, he added: “It appears that the council will make members of the trade apply to obtain their refunds. What the council should be doing is interrogating their records and issuing the refunds automatically to those affected.”
The council presented a report to cabinet on Wednesday and will begin re-advertising fees as soon as it is approved.
Speaking to the Observer council leader Miles Parkinson blamed the affair on the previous Conservative administration.
He said: “We’re going to have to find £210,000, which is another blunder after the ‘superloo’ fiasco.
“We’re still picking up the pieces from taking over the council in 2011.”
The ‘superloo’ cost the council £100,000 in cancellation and removal fees to get out of a 25-year contract.
Hyndburn MP Graham Jones added: “The taxi issue dates back to 2004 when the Tories had got back in power. It is ratepayers’ money that has been wasted and it was just more incompetency by the recent outgoing Tory council. This is just the latest blunder to add to many.”
But former council leader Coun Peter Britcliffe said it was the responsibility of council officers to place the notices in the press and called for any disciplinary action against them to be made public.
He added: “I am disappointed I wasn’t informed about this but I do think it’s been exaggerated and I really do not believe they will have to pay that amount back.
“The reality is that I actually reduced some of the charges during my time in office between 2008 and 2011.”