CHECKS on taxis plying their trade in Barnsley town centre found 70 per cent were licensed by other local authorities as far as 100 miles away - prompting industry bosses to urge a re-think on the rules to protect local cabbies from missing out on fares.

Action was taken on three separate occasions - on November 4, November 10 and December 2 - in an operation led by Barnsley Council’s licensing enforcement team.

One daytime and two night checks were carried out, with stark differences being noticed, a meeting at Barnsley Town Hall on Wednesday was told.

During the day, all 12 vehicles were Barnsley-registered, but every taxi stopped as part of the night-time checks were licensed by other local authorities.

The Chronicle can reveal seven were from Sheffield, four from Calderdale, four from Rotherham and six from Wolverhampton - which is a 97-mile distance from the town centre but touted as an ‘easy place’ to obtain a licence.

Others were from Leeds, Chesterfield, Wakefield and Bradford.

Licensing officer Debbie Bailey said: “We have continued to proactively work with the Hackney carriage and private hire trade - and other local authority departments - to ensure any issues and concerns within the trades are raised and addressed accordingly.

“Wolverhampton’s officers suspended three of their licensed vehicles.

“In addition, the officers working also ensured that all of the drivers and vehicles checked could evidence their customers bookings.

“As part of the operation, licensing officers from all authorities involved checked their own licensed vehicles and drivers accordingly and took their own enforcement action if necessary.( “In addition, officers also ensured that all of the drivers and vehicles checked could evidence their customers’ bookings.”

Many local taxi drivers say the Deregulation Act 2015 has threatened livelihoods and put drivers off from working nights due to cheaper rates being offered by out-of-town licence holders.

A petition - calling for a re-think of the rules as to where drivers can operate - is making its way to the government having generated almost 6,000 signatures.

The petition’s creator, Waleed Hussain, says the Deregulation Act 2015 has ‘created loopholes that allow big companies to monopolise’.

He said: “We want the government to require taxi and private hire vehicle drivers to be licensed in all areas they operate in.

“The Deregulation Act 2015 has created loopholes that allow big companies to monopolise this trade, which has affected rates.

“Some councils are reducing the rates for taxi and private hire vehicle licences and making it easier to get a licence, not needing to prove knowledge of local areas.

“This has resulted in a huge increase in licences being granted by some councils.

“People who are being banned from holding a licence with one council are going to other councils where they can easily obtain licences.

“The law has to change - drivers should only be allowed to work in areas they have a licence for.”

Ms Bailey confirmed more enforcement operations are in the pipeline alongside other councils such as Wolverhampton, who sent representatives to Barnsley during the recent checks.

“Vehicle and driver non-compliance is an issue officers are concerned with during the undertaking of each and every enforcement operation.

“Regardless of which authority issued the licences, defective vehicles are not acceptable and cannot be excused and officers will continue to proactively enforce both the legislation and our local conditions accordingly.

“Proactive joint enforcement operations will continue to take place on a regular basis.

“Vehicle failures are always unacceptable, and our operations must convey the message that operators, vehicle proprietors and drivers must accept responsibility for any failures and make a change.

“All licensing authorities have clear standards that must be adhered to as failure to do so may put the safety of the public at risk when using a hackney carriage or private hire vehicle.

“The principal consideration for all is, as always, one of public safety.”