Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

The Rossendale Taxi problem

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If you’re a northerner like me, then, the next time you get a taxi, have a look at which local authority the car is registered with. You may find that, rather than being registered with the authority for the area that you are in, it’s been registered with Rossendale Borough Council.

I’ve noticed this both in Bradford, where I work, and in Calderdale where I live. Whilst the majority of cars are registered with Bradford and Calderdale councils respectively, some are registered in Rossendale, even though they carry operator logos for local companies. In other words, there are taxis working in Bradford, with a Bradford operator, but registered with a completely different local authority.

It’s a strange situation, but one that is entirely legal. It’s perhaps worth delving into a bit of history first though.

In Britain, we have two types of taxis:

  • Hackney carriages, also known as ‘black cabs’, which can be hailed from the street without pre-booking. These are well-regulated, especially in London where drivers are required to pass a series of exams called ‘The Knowledge‘. Hackney carriages will always have a meter on display and most modern vehicles can accommodate a wheelchair.
  • Private hire, which in London are known as ‘minicabs’. These have to be booked in advance via an office – you can’t hail a passing private hire vehicle nor can a private hire driver tout for business. Drivers for upstart services like Uber and Lyft come under this type. Private hire vehicles were completely unregulated until 2001 when councils were able to introduce registration. In some areas, the fare has to be agreed in advance, but others permit the use of meters.

For more, see the Wikipedia article on taxicabs in the United Kingdom.

To drive a taxi and be able to pick up customers, you have to be registered with a local authority – but there’s no requirement for it be the authority in the area that you choose to work in. I assume that this is mostly because some journeys will inevitably result in crossing local authority borders. In particular, I’ve taken taxis from Bradford to Sowerby Bridge and it would be a bit silly if the Bradford taxi driver was required to end the journey at the border between the Bradford and Calderdale districts.

Because registration is handled by individual local authorities, and each local authority handles registration differently, it’s therefore possible to ‘cherry-pick’ a local authority that is less stringent. This seems to be the allegation that has been laid at Rossendale Borough Council – it’s seen as being lighter on regulation than other authorities. This has a knock-on effect in areas outside Rossendale where drivers who are registered there operate. In Bradford, it means that Bradford council can’t carry out safety checks on these drivers as they have no jurisdiction – even though the drivers are working in the Bradford area for Bradford taxi operators.

It’s also meant that the borough of Rossendale, which is a largely rural part of Lancashire with only three towns and a total population of under 70,000 people, has over 1200 licensed taxis registered there. That compares with a little over 200 in Bradford, which is home to almost ten times as many people and is a major city.

It would appear that Rossendale Council are aware of the problems and are proposing changes, which has resulted in the threat of strike action. One of the changes that the council is proposing is that it can refuse or revoke a license on the ‘presumption’ that a licensee is operating primarily outside of the area. If these changes go through, then those drivers registered in Rossendale but primarily working elsewhere will need to register with a different authority. And whilst I’d hope that this would be the authority for the area that they work in, I can’t help but feel that some will just move on to whichever other authority is seen as being soft on regulation.


  1. well obviously you should have done your homework first when you say soft on regulation I don’t know what you mean by this I am a registered Rossendale hackney company owner and I live and work in Rossendale and believe me it is not a soft council there is no such thing ,all councils have a strict policy on taxis it is the law that applies in these cases of hackney carriages working outside of there respective areas as private hire drivers don’t have a go at the drivers for trying to earn a living it is perfectly legal to do so. otherwise they would not be allowed to do it , if you feel the need to have a go direct it at the councils of this country where some think its ok to charge a taxi driver £450 for an mot then fail it for a very minor thing such as a windscreen wiper blade or a bulb and then because its over five years old it can`t be used as a taxi anymore because it failed ,they wont even let you replace the bulb or windscreen wiper once they have failed it and the council in the next borough will let you get it repaired there should be a standardisation across the country please don’t blame the drivers its not there fault they want to work and earn money for their families looking forward to de-regulation of taxis so we can all work wherever we want

  2. I agree with you Mr Jardine, i am also a Rossendale taxi driver, its very difficult and expensive to licence a taxi in Rossendale, but the problem is that you dont neen to actually live or even be based in Rossendale to get a Rossendale taxi licence.
    A basic change in the rules could be that the vehicals should be registered with a Rossendale post code and drivers home adress should be in the Rossendale area, i cant understand why this is not the case now, with applicants coming from as far as Manchester,Birmingham and i have even heard of one licence being issued to a driver from Devon ! , its obvious that any drivers or vehicals outside the Rossendale cant be regularly checked by the Rossendale reforcment team, but if the council are happy to issue a licence to an address outside Rossendale its their responabilty and should be made to go out and check a certain perscentage of “Rossendale” licened taxis. The rules need to change.

  3. I went to a Manchester uber meeting last week and the whole session had rosendale council at the heart of it, even the supplied paperwork had instructions for rossendale.

    Uber employee said it recommends using rossendale as it’s quicker to get a licence and because of uber have employed more staff. They also say that you only have to provide three things whereas other councils as for six, the main one being a knowledge test.

    So the figure of taxi drivers registered must now be close to the population of Rossendale.

    Uber in the way they push drivers to register at rossendale do so in a really creepy way, as if they are doing a dodge and they are cleverer than the system.

    I’m surprised that the other councils don’t put some sort of rule in as they clearly have drivers working in their area that do not meet their councils criteria for working.

    Yes is good that drivers pay less and the people of the borough get more money in the kitty, but if this is the way uber operates what other dodges are they up to and as you technically sign up to deal under these circumstances your selling your sole pretty cheaply at the start.

    By the way if you are a private hire driver wanting to take your taxi driving test, your in for a long wait as uber staff seem to have an endless supply of cancelled tests to save you waiting. Not saying they are booking tests in various names and a using the government system but in my opinion they are abusing the government system and causing other users waits that shouldn’t happen.

    I’m still going to sign up with uber as its a means to an end, but the lying does worry me a little as to what the future holds.