Keighley councillor calls for clampdown on taxi licensing loophole

Keighley town councillor and Watch and Transport Committee chairman Michael Westerman

Keighley town councillor and Watch and Transport Committee chairman Michael Westerman

A KEIGHLEY councillor fears a Lancashire council is not equipped to tackle a legal loophole allowing taxi drivers to dodge Bradford district’s strict safety checks.

Michael Westerman claims the problem of local cabbies deliberately getting their licences from Rossendale Borough Council rather than from Bradford Council is being compounded by a lack of enforcement in Rossendale.

Rossendale Borough Council has rejected his argument, however, stating it has a “large”, active enforcement team.

Bradford’s own licensing enforcement officers, who often carry out spot safety checks on cabs, have no jurisdiction over drivers who have acquired their licences from other councils.

The practice is legal — hackney carriages licensed for one area can lawfully operate as private hire cars anywhere else in the country.

Cllr Westerman said he had spoken to Rossendale’s hackney carriages department, which told him it only had two enforcement officers.

“They’ve got 1,700 licensed taxis in Rossendale, and there’s no way so many taxis can be operating just within Rossendale, but as long as Rossendale Council is getting the money from these licenses, it’s happy,” he said.

“The cost of a taxi licence there is £275, cheaper than Bradford, and Rossendale says it has now reduced this cost even further.

“I’ve asked for an enforcement day or night to be done in Keighley, but the council told me it has only got two enforcement officers so it wouldn’t be able to do anything until it got more staff.

“The council also told me it hopes to introduce a knowledge and language test, but I was shocked to learn it doesn’t already already have this.”

Cllr Westerman, who chairs Keighley Town Council’s watch and transport committee and also the joint transport forum, added: “If someone here phones a taxi company, they’ve a right to expect a car with a Bradford plate, not a plate from outside the area.”

Stuart Hastings, boss of private hire firm Metro Keighley, said Rossendale Borough Council needed to “get a grip”.

“Since the first driver had the idea of getting his licence from Rossendale it’s gone ballistic,” he said.

“I don’t know how they get away with it.”

A Rossendale Borough Council spokesman responded: “We do a lot of enforcement outside of Rossendale, including in Bradford, Manchester and Manchester Airport.”We have also been in Keighley.

“We’re happy to do more enforcement work in Keighley and will be looking at getting some dates sorted as soon as possible.

“We’ve asked for Cllr Westerman to report complaints and potential hot spots to us, as this will help us target our work.

“We do have a large enforcement team carrying this work out, and we’re looking to recruit two more posts to further enhance the work we’re already doing.”

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