FEARS have been raised that unlicensed taxi drivers operating in the area could be putting people’s safety at risk.

Lisa Ridsdale, company secretary for Malton-based Station Taxis, said the firm had been made aware of unregistered taxis in Ryedale and expressed concerns about the potential dangers to passengers.

She said that the drivers were also avoiding thousands of pounds in licensing fees.

Lisa estimated that her firm paid between £50,000 and £60,000 a year for each taxi licence, in addition to undergoing a second vetting check from North Yorkshire County Council.

She said: “We are paying about £90,000 a year on insurance and our drivers have to go through medical checks and CRB checks. We are paying about a quarter of a million on expenses per year. This problem has been going on for years and nothing has been done about it.”

Those found to be operating as unlicensed taxi drivers can be fined up to £1,000 and hit with penalty points, or even banned from driving.

Despite reporting the problem to Ryedale District Council and North Yorkshire Police numerous times, Lisa said that little has been done due to a lack of people coming forward to give written statements.

“I am literally crying with frustration,” she said. “I have spoken to the council before and I am so fed up with it, what are we supposed to do?”

Inspector Andy Everitt, of Ryedale Police, said that one unregistered driver was being monitored by police, but until more people came forward with evidence they were unable to prosecute.

He said: “We have received reports of unlicensed taxi drivers in the Malton and Norton and we have investigated one individual and stopped them driving a vehicle to determine whether they were working as a taxi.

“No prosecutions have taken part at this time, but we are actively monitoring an individual and will continue to make regular spot checks.”

The council, which is responsible for issuing taxi licences, said it was working closely with the police to tackle the issue.

Beckie Bennett, StreetScene manager for Ryedale District Council, said: “The council takes the matter of unlicensed taxis very seriously as it is illegal to carry fare paying passengers without holding both a valid driver and vehicle licence.”

“We are investigating this issue and are working very closely with North Yorkshire Police – we would urge anyone who has any information to contact us.”

Insp Everitt urged anyone with information to contact Malton police with details of the car and the driver.