LAX licensing rules which have paved the way for ‘hundreds’ of out-of-borough taxi drivers to bombard Barnsley town centre need to be immediately addressed before long-serving cabbies leave the industry, it has been warned.

Barnsley-based drivers have bemoaned rivals - some registered more than 100 miles away - for encroaching on their long-held patches despite having little or no knowledge of the area.

Described as being at a ‘tipping point’ this week due to easy-to-obtain licences in places such as Wolverhampton, it’s been claimed that taxis have descended on the town centre, particularly during evenings, to hoover up fares.

Pressure from local drivers has led Barnsley Council’s licensing team to carry out a series of checks on town centre taxis, which found 70 per cent were registered elsewhere.

Barnsley taxi drivers say the Deregulation Act 2015 has threatened their livelihoods and a petition - calling for a re-think of the rules as to where drivers can operate to effectively safeguard local cabbies - is making its way to the government having received support from local MPs.

Steve Smith, chairman of the Barnsley Private Hire Association, praised the licensing team for their work - but blasted neighbouring authorities and called on them to act in a similar fashion.

“Our drivers are rightly complaining because this influx of taxis are pinching fares and crippling trade for people who live in Barnsley,” he told the Chronicle.

“Barnsley’s licensing team have been brilliant - especially the chairman Steve Green and senior officer Debbie Bailey - and they really can’t do much more.

“We’ve been at loggerheads with them before over previous matters but they really do deserve praise for acting on our concerns.

“We want other local authorities’ licensing departments to act in the same way as it’s simply too easy to obtain a licence and go wherever you please thereafter - there’s no thought for drivers who have worked for years in the town.

“It’s not a case of sour grapes - it’s a matter of public safety, too, as we have heard some horror stories from customers who have used out-of-town taxis and had bad experiences.

“These drivers don’t know the area, they’re asking their customers for directions and they’re charging way too much.

“It’s a ten-minute process to get a licence with Wolverhampton’s council and drivers have cottoned on to that as it’s cheap, quick and online.

“Just because they’re registered with that authority, they don’t have to work or even live there.

“In fact many who have been licensed by Wolverhampton are living in Rotherham.

“We’ve been in touch with the town’s MPs and South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard regarding it as the situation is serious for us as it’s getting worse, not better, and something has to change.

“Barnsley’s got a loyal group of taxis who are professional, knowledgeable, trusted and respected - their opinions count.”

Barnsley Council charge £137 to register as a new private hire driver but it’s just £49 with the City of Wolverhampton Council, whose licensing bosses refuted claims of wrongdoing.

Stephanie Peacock, who represents Barnsley East, called on the government to act.

“I have been contacted by drivers who are concerned about cross-border hires pricing them out of work, despite not having to pass the same training and safety requirements that they do as Barnsley drivers.

“Drivers from different areas are often not required to have met the same safety and training requirements as those licensed in Barnsley, posing a risk for the industry and for the safety of passengers.

“Borough councils, including Barnsley, are currently unable to ensure that the training levels of out of borough hires meet their standards requirements for safety and training.

“The Labour Party have committed to introducing national minimal standards for taxi drivers so that the industry is fair and passengers can be assured of their safety.

“I called on the government to match Labour’s commitment and introduce national minimal standards as soon as possible.”

Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis added: “Local taxi drivers are understandably concerned about the influx of drivers coming from outside our borough who are taking their business.

“I have discussed what can be done about this with the chair of Barnsley Council’s licensing board and will raise my concerns in Parliament.

“Taxi drivers in towns and cities across the country are being similarly affected, and the government should urgently provide guidance to local councils and take action to support our hard-working local drivers who are losing out on work through no fault of their own.”