Newton Abbot taxi firm takes on 15 Romanian drivers despite red tape row
A NEWTON Abbot taxi firm has taken on 15 drivers from Romania, claiming it has struggled to find committed staff locally.
Teignbridge Taxis, which has been running for six years and has a fleet of around 30 vehicles, said it had tried to recruit locally, but failed.
Managing director Daniel Hooper said: "Employing people in the area is like banging your head against a brick wall.
"We didn't want to bring drivers in from Europe but we had to. We need drivers who want to do the job and do it well.
"The majority of the drivers that we've come across locally didn't seem to want to work the anti-social hours or put themselves out for the customer.
"Our Romanian staff go the extra mile for the people they drive. The economy is shot in their country, so they are eager to make a life here.
"We now have customers requesting our Romanian drivers."
The firm started looking into employing Romanians last Autumn and signed up with an agency who recruited and trained the new drivers.
Mr Hooper has had to overcome several hurdles to obtain permits from Teignbridge District Council.
He says the process has been a 'nightmare'.
Mr Hooper says he was asked to supply the council with various documents, including medical and good conduct certificates, which had to be approved by the relevant bodies in Romania.
But he claimed the council was concerned about their authenticity when he presented them and he was advised to visit the Romanian Consulate in London with his foreign workers to obtain more documents which left him with a £1,600 bill.
He claimed the documents provided in London were 'identical' to those he had already tried to hand over.
"All the council had to do was call London Transport to find out what they accept as official documents when employing taxi drivers," said Mr Hooper.
"Instead I had to go to London and incur this cost which was unnecessary."
Cllr Mike Walters, Teignbridge District Council's Executive spokesman for corporate services, said: "As a local licensing authority Teignbridge has a legal obligation to make sure that information contained within any license application is genuine.
"The Romanian applicants provided certificates of good conduct and medical certificates but we could not be 100 per cent certain of their authenticity.
"We spent considerable time clarifying the position with advice from the Romanian Embassy, the Romanian Consulate, the Department of Transport and another licensing authority in Devon.
"Our view was that it was essential to make sure the applications were genuine in order to protect the council, the Romanian nationals and the general public.
"We go to great lengths to ensure we have Criminal Records Bureau checks and medical history records from UK citizens who apply for a licence, so it is only fair we should do the same with other EU citizens who have just arrived in the country.
"The proposal to amend our policy for licensing foreign nationals as hackney carriage/private hire drivers, which goes before the Regulatory and Appeals Committee at its meeting on January 31, is aimed at making this process clearer.
"We appreciate Mr Hooper's situation but these things always take a certain amount of time."