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The problem of unlicensed taxis and drivers has arisen again, this time in Bolton.

whilst licensed taxis and private hire cars are required to have a twice-yearly council MOT and their drivers must undergo a Criminal Records Bureau check, several firms operating in the town are getting round the legislation. Despite claiming to be official carriage firms, they have not been granted official taxi licences by Bolton Council. Additionally, although unlicensed companies may not claim to be taxi operators, they often provide comparable services — airport transfers, minibus hire or stretch limo services. And, of course, by avoiding the cost of licences and associated expenses, these companies can undercut the licensed firms.

The chairman of Bolton Taxi Drivers Association, Bill Williams, is concerned that people may be unaware that they are travelling in unsafe cars that are driven by drivers who have not been checked. Along with other taxi drivers, he is pressing Bolton Council to crack down on unlicensed cabbies, saying: “I have been lobbying the council about people running taxi-like operations without having taxi licences. I want to know why every Bolton taxi driver bothers to pay for their licence when there are people out there without them.” Councillor Hilary Fairclough, who chairs the licensing committee, agreed that action is needed: “If the vehicles are taxis, they need to be licensed and we will enforce that and do everything we can. We take it very seriously.”

The chairman of the taxi, hackney and private hire consultancy panel at Bolton Council, Councillor Andy Morgan, is also pressing for a level playing field: “I have tried to put forward this issue myself. It's unacceptable that there are unlicensed and unregistered vehicles taking people to and fro. We should be doing more to enforce the licensing objectives because people often don't know who they are getting in cars with and if the cars are roadworthy.”

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