Late-night taxi scheme that has cut drink-fuelled violence in Hartlepool faces axe

Taxi rank, Hartlepool Station.
Taxi rank, Hartlepool Station.

A late-night taxi scheme that officials say has helped to reduce drink-fuelled violence is facing the axe – to save £8,000 a year.

Hartlepool’s Taxi Marshalling Scheme, which has been running for about eight years in Church Street, was introduced in response to high levels of crime and disorder among revellers.

Initiatives such as the Taxi Marshalling Service play their part in making the town centre area a safer place to visit and enjoy.

Safer Hartlepool Partnership report

It involves registered security staff creating and managing an orderly queue of people waiting for a taxi at the end of Saturday night and preventing fights breaking out.

Despite the scheme costing £8,000 a year – and calls for it to be extended – it is facing the axe as part of a number of cost-saving measures being considered by Hartlepool Borough Council.

It is likely to come to an end from next July unless partner agencies on the Safer Hartlepool Partnership, which includes police chiefs and the probation service, can find alternative funding.

A report to the partnership,which will consider the issue on Friday, states: “The Taxi Marshalling Scheme is highly valued by those who have a role to play in the management of the night-time economy and, while its overall contribution is difficult to quantify, it is believed to have contributed towards the significant reductions to violent crime that have taken place in recent years.”

Funding for the marshalling scheme was originally obtained from the Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership in 2007.

It operates between 1am and 5am on a Sunday at the cab rank in Station Approach, off Church Street.

For the past three years it has been paid for from Hartlepool’s Public Health budget, managed by Hartlepool Borough Council, as part of a commitment to reducing alcohol-related harm.

The scheme costs anout £8,000 a year plus a contingency to cover additional days such as Bank Holidays.

But the council is proposing to withdraw the funding in response to a significant cut in its health budget.

The Safer Hartlepool Partnership report says while it is hard to quantify the benefits of the scheme, police, taxi drivers and local town pastors are all supportive.

It adds: “Indeed, there is a level of demand for the Taxi Marshalling Scheme to be enhanced by having it extended to cover the Victoria Road area in order to service the licensed premises situated there and which, at the current time, is the most popular part of Hartlepool’s Night Time Economy area.

“Violent crime against the person in the night-time economy area has fallen significantly since 2006 but remains a concern and, whilst the actual number of licensed premises has also fallen considerably, serious incidents do still occur and initiatives such as the Taxi Marshalling Service play their part in making the town centre area a safer place to visit and enjoy.”

The report says is not legally possible to use money made through the council’s taxi licensing system to pay for the marshalling scheme.

And it is said a potential late-night levy on licensed premises that are open after a certain time would cost more to run than it would make, ruling it out as another possible way to pay for the marshalling scheme.