CABBIES in Burnley have been offered a licence fee freeze - if they agree to a new appointments system for hackney carriage and private hire drivers.

Councillors sitting on the borough’s licensing committee have been asked to approve a zero-rated increase for 2014-15.

But drivers must agree to abide by an appointments regime for queries at the Contact Centre in Parker Lane to cut down on costs.

The three-year drivers’ licence fee is £240 and for a single year it is £82.50.

The licence fee for vehicles under three years old is £87 and over three years old is £58.

Currently, there is a drop-in arrangement - but cabbies have complained of hour-long waiting times so a pilot appointment system has been in place for the past 10 months each morning.

Environment official Karen Davies said in a report: “The appointment system has eliminated waiting times through the morning.

“But because it is not well used by the trade, there continue to be periods of excessive waiting through the afternoon.”

She has told councillors that staff can be more easily redeployed for vacant appointment slots, so the counter service operates more efficiently.

Taxi income has been lower over the past 12 months because it is the third year of new three-year driver licences, councillors have heard.

Last April a surplus fund held £45,481 for the trade but this has dipped to £26,101 currently and should be around £3,376 by 2015.

Councillors have been recommended to inject an extra £22,365 to top up the surplus fund.

Trade representatives are said to have been agreeable to the freeze but a final decision will be made when the committee meets at Burnley Town Hall on Tuesday (Mar18).