Rossendale is the taxi capital of the UK with more cabs per head than London, government figures have revealed.
Valley taxis have become notorious for operating outside the borough but the shock figures show that there are more Rossendale licenced taxis and minicabs by population than anywhere else in England or Wales.
The taxi and private hire vehicles statistics released by the Department of Transport, show 1,610 taxis and minicabs in Rossendale in March 2015, – which works out as one for every 42.9 people.
London, by contrast, has one cab for every 100 people who live there.
Uttlesford in Essex has the second most, proportionately, with one for every 76.9 people.
By July of this year the number for Rossendale had risen again to 2,523 – which works out as one cab for every 27 residents.
The data shows that the total number of licensed cabs in the borough rose a staggering 412 per cent between 2013 and 2015, and the number of licensed drivers rose by 311.
Jake Berry, MP for Rossendale and Darwen said he was “shocked” by the figures.
He said: “These figures are of huge concern.
“It seems that Rossendale’s taxi licensing is a magnet to all and sundry to seek a licence without working in the Valley.”
The statistical release by the DofT states: “Rossendale Borough Council had the greatest increase in both total licensed vehicles and driver licences in England.
This is likely due to the fact that although taxis can only be driven by drivers licensed by Rossendale Council, once a vehicle becomes a licensed taxi, the law allows it to accept pre-bookings in any district in England and Wales.”
Local authorities in Sheffield, Bradford, Rochdale and Derby have all publicly criticised the number of Rossendale-licensed cabs operating in their areas.
David Lawrie, chair of the Rossendale Taxi Association said he was “surprised” by the figures, but that new policies were in the process of changing the taxi industry.
He said: “The infrastructure in Rossendale is very different to London. The only transport we have seven days a week, 24 hours a day is taxis.
“I take on board that the majority of those vehicles are operating outside the borough, but once the intended use policy kicks in March they will revert back to where we were 15 years ago where we saw a maximum of 300 licensed vehicles.
“In 12 months there will be a drop from thousands to hundreds of licenses, which is a good thing for local drivers because we get negatively criticised – even though it’s the council that messed up and issued all these licenses.
“Years ago we told them to introduce a cap and they refused. This is the result.”
The intended use’ policy approved in January, sets out the council’s plan and requirements for hackney licensing and renewal. Members of the licensing committee agreed to “refine” to reject applicants whose address is beyond a 30 miles radius from a fixed point within the borough.
Councillor Steve Hughes, chair of the council’s licensing committee, said that the statistics were not “ideal”.
He said: “We obviously know there is a problem with the numbers of licensed vehicles we have and we are doing work to try and bring our policy to where it needs to be to increase the Rossendale taxis operating within the Rossendale area.
“We have been admittedly slow to dealing with the loopholes that have been created with the change in policy at a national government level.
“Other authorities have reduced their numbers of licenses more quickly but we are doing what we need to do to get there.
“There is a need for national policy that would help sort this situation out quickly and effectively.”
He added: “The intended use policy has significantly brought down the number of licence requests we are receiving and the consultation that has just concluded will make even more changes and hopefully bring that number down to ensure that we don’t have this problem moving forward.
“What I want is to make a fair and open process so that local people can have an opportunity to get into the taxi business but that doesn’t create the numbers we have” currently.”