It's one of the smallest unitary authorities in the country and yet NEL Council has issued, by its own admission, a total of 235 active licenses for taxi drivers. Compare this to the 170 issued by Kingston upon Hull City Council, whose urban density is both higher and greater, and you can start to see the sort of problems taxi drivers in Grimsby are complaining of.
I see the taxi as part of the transport solution. Quite frankly, they take over when bus operators and local authorities deem running buses either unprofitable or unnecessary - or both. Often they compliment public transport: I'm thinking of holidaymakers arriving at Cleethorpes and wanting an efficient service to the many holiday parks further along the coast. Lugging your belongings onto a bus is not everyone's idea of a holiday, so many are more than willing to pay a little more for a tailored service.
Taxi drivers also afford people arriving at Grimsby Town station an efficient service, with the town centre's main rank on the forecourt, whereas a 7-8 minute walk is needed to get to the bus station and a potential hour-long wait could be required before a bus turns up, especially during evening periods. Stagecoach provides the worst frequency on Sunday evenings the area has seen for decades now, with some service frequencies conforming to diagram requirements rather than a clockface timetable, as is the case during Mon-Sat evenings. Again, here the taxi is king. And too at 2am when the pubs close and buses do not operate.
The angle not covered by The Beeb was that of the passenger. It's okay to interview someone from NELC who, while agreeing that too many licenses have been issued, refused to revoke any as it would see a livelihood be destroyed, but this would be a different matter if too many taxis in the area cost the council money. As it is they do not. Revenue per licence is received by the council and thereafter no obligation is required. The public, on the other hand, have never had it so good - I would contend that Grimsby and Cleethorpes could now have a greater number of taxis per resident than anywhere else outside London.
Perhaps residents ought to have been interviewed in the piece. Surely positive comments about never having to wait long for a cab to turn up would be heard. Perhaps this didn't fit with the type of report the organisation wanted to film. Taxi drivers imply they'd like to see the number of licenses reduce to just 200 - still thirty more than Hull. Perhaps North East Lincs has always been historically more taxi dependent? Perhaps the rates set by NELC have made travel by taxi more affordable than in other areas of the UK, which has in turn increased passenger numbers which has then required an increase in cabbies to cater for demand.
So far as we can tell, NELC are to issue no further taxi licenses until natural wastage sees the number reduce to the 200 mark. If nothing else, this news should warn aspiring taxi drivers in the area to consider another form of employment - perhaps apply at the local bus depot?