‘ROGUE’ taxi drivers are risking the safety of unwitting passengers, South Lakeland cab firms have warned.

Bona fide taxi drivers, vetted and licensed by South Lakeland District Council, say an increasing number of vehicles which look like taxis are operating illegally.

They claim customers getting into cars in good faith are being ripped off and placing their personal safety in jeopardy.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of the South Lakeland Taxi Association.

Secretary Sarah Ibbetson said: “You get vehicles coming into town pretending to be taxis and it’s a real safety concern.

“Every taxi driver has seen one at some point and we want to make sure the people of South Lakeland are not defrauded, or worse, by imposters.”

Mrs Ibbetson, co-owner of Windermere Taxis, said it was as ‘easy as putting a sign on your roof’ to pose as a taxi.

Official taxis have panels on both front doors and the rear of the vehicle displaying the South Lakeland District Council logo.

Recognised drivers also have identification badges in their cars.

“Young women getting into a taxi on their own can’t be 100 per cent sure that the driver has a clean criminal record,” explained Mrs Ibbetson.

“You need to know that the driver is honest.”

Andy Britton, owner of Blue Star Taxis in Kendal, said his drivers had raised the issue and called for random checks to be carried out to tackle the problem. Our biggest concern is the safety of the public,” he said. “If they’re getting into an unlicensed taxi, there isn’t adequate insurance and the chances are that the driver hasn’t had a CRB check; there is no way of knowing if he is a fit and proper person.

“Every few weeks, someone should go up and down the taxi rank and check vehicles. At the moment, there’s no deterrent.”

As well as safety concerns, it is feared rogue taxis are charging illegal fares.

Daytime tariffs should start at £3, rising to £4.50 after midnight, but Mrs Ibbetson said some passengers were ‘paying through their nose’ in some cases.

An SLDC spokesman said the authority received ‘very few’ complaints about rogue taxis and stringent procedures were in place to ensure drivers were ‘fit and proper’ people to hold licences.

“We urge all members of the public to make sure they use a licensed taxi, which clearly displays the council logo on the side of the vehicle and a plate identifying the vehicle on the rear,” said the spokesman.

“The driver must be able to produce a badge indicating that he or she has the appropriate driving licence.”