Around 1,200 cabbies are using Rossendale council licences to drive outside of the Valley, it’s been revealed.
There are currently 2,412 drivers licensed by the authority. But the council has confirmed that half of these are using their licences to drive passengers in neighbouring boroughs such as Rochdale, Bradford and Manchester.
Council papers also confirm that income from licensing fees has leapt eight fold from £92,000 in 2011 to £783,000 in 2014/15.
David Lawrie, chairman of Bacup Taxi Association, said the proliferation has occurred because Rossendale has no cap on the number of licences.
He said: “Other councils have a maximum number of licences they can issue. However, if you introduce a limit here it could potentially put some of our drivers out of work.”
Earlier this year a Rochdale council report claimed that its work to protect vulnerable residents was undermined by a ‘legal loophole’, allowing Hackney Carriage vehicles licensed by one authority to work in another area as a Private Hire vehicle. It claimed Rossendale council also adopted a ‘lower standard’ for its drivers in areas of language skills, area knowledge and safeguarding.
Rossendale council said it refuted various aspects of the report.
Conservative group leader Coun Darryl Smith raised concerns over the situation.
He said: “We can’t carry on the way we have been if it’s causing problems for us and neighbouring authorities. It must be very frustrating when you are focusing on safeguarding and then look at neighbouring boroughs issuing licences like confetti.”
Coun Smith said the council’s income of £783,000 from licences was “a massive amount of money.”
He added: “You’ve got to think there are people coming here because it is easy to get a licence.”
Licensing bosses last month recommended introducing a basic skills test for drivers. The assessment for Hackney Carriage and private hire drivers will establish skills, such as if drivers can give correct change or hold conversations with customers.
Licensing and enforcement manager Tracy Brzozowski told the Free Press the council would expect to see a decline in new applications if the basic skills test is approved by the full council.
She added: “Once a vehicle has been licensed as a hackney carriage by either a district council in England and Wales or by Transport for London (the Public Carriage Office) it is a hackney carriage for the duration of that licence, wherever it is currently located.”