Taxi marshalling ‘must stay’ in Hartlepool: Desperate hunt to find funding for safety service

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

An at-risk taxi marshalling service in Hartlepool town centre ‘must stay’, a meeting heard.

The scheme, which has been running for about eight years in Church Street, came under threat due to cost saving measures being considered by Hartlepool Borough Council.

We will agree that we are going to explore all funding opportunities. We need to keep this service.

Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher

It costs £8,000 a year and, according to officials, has helped reduce drink-fuelled violence by employing security staff to create and manage orderly queues of people waiting for taxis at the end of a Saturday night out.

The Safer Hartlepool Partnership met yesterday at the Civic Centre to discuss the proposal that the scheme could come to an end next July.

Chair of the committee, Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “We will agree that we are going to explore all funding opportunities. 
“We need to keep this service.”

The council’s director of public health, Louise Wallace gave a report to members of the meeting, which includes police chiefs and councillors.

She said the scheme was a “key feature in the drugs and alcohol strategy” and that the partnership should work to find an alternative way to support it.

Coun Marjorie James, chair of Hartlepool’s Neighbourhood Services Policy Committee, said the marshalling service was “very beneficial” to the town.

She suggested introducing a levy on taxi drivers to fund the service or increasing taxi fares during those hours but was told by Ian Harrison, trading standards and licensing manager, that it was not feasible.

Chief Supt Gordon Lang, of Cleveland Police, said: “If this service is not there, there will be a knock on effect which will impact on the demand for ourselves and that does concern me.”

But the service was thrown a potential lifeline by Neville Cameron, from the office of Cleveland Police and crime commissioner Barry Coppinger.

He said that taxi marshalling services were funded in some parts of the country, including Warwickshire and Staffordshire, by police and crime commissioners.

He said: “An application could be made for a community safety grant, especially since this ties in with the commissioner’s policies of reducing offending.”

He contacted his office and later told the meeting he had contacted the chief financial officer and that the Partnership should submit an application.

The issue is set to be discussed again at the next Safer Hartlepool Partnership meeting on January 22.