TAXI drivers are rebelling over plans to increase the fees they are charged for working in Darlington.

Seventy-five drivers have sent a letter protesting over Darlington Borough Councils plans to raise operating fees.

Under the proposals, operators will now pay £1,300 a year to the council for the basic licensing of a driver, up £45 on last year.

They could also face an extra £122 in add-ons, such as administration charges and plate fees. Those charges would have cost a maximum of £102 last year.

Despite the increases, the council's licensing department is projecting a £5,000 loss for the year.

Drivers are voiced their discontent over the rises in the aftermath of the conviction of former employee Abigail Clement, 31, of Middleton St George, for stealing nearly £14,000.

The letter, sent by a Mr Singh, and copied and sent by 74 other drivers, said: "How does your accounting system work with regards to raising revenue when your department were not aware that an employee in your department namely Abigail Clement managed to steal £13,670 of licensing money?

"Clement got a suspended jail term after admitting taking the money, which had been paid by taxi drivers and landlords. The money had already been paid back to the council."

A council spokeswoman said: "Our systems and procedures have been strengthened to ensure this situation does not happen again."

Mr Singh said the rising licence fees to be reflected in the support offered to Darlingtons taxi drivers.

He stated: "This is the worst recession for thirty years and takings are down by 40 per cent, yet you still insist on attempting to take more.

"The council must start to take responsibility and help small businesses in Darlington to thrive and prosper, for everyones benefit."

Mr Singh said money should be spent upgrading the towns ranks, to make them safer.

The proposed rises in licensing fees will be discussed at a meeting of the council's cabinet on Tuesday, February 2, at 5pm in the town hall. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

Council officers recommend the plans are approved. A report to the cabinet stated: "The recommendations are put forward to ensure that the costs of delivering the taxi licensing service can be met."