Red tape is strangling some business in Sussex, according to one taxi operator in Crowborough.
Donald Richards runs the Ashdown Cars taxi firm in the town and believes those seeking work are being put off by council bureaucracy. Mr Richards says the background checks that Wealden and Rother district councils insist on carrying out before they will let new drivers on the road are taking far too long, meaning those desperate to find work are finding it even more diffcult.
Many potential new cabbies can face delays of over three months while checks are carried out and Mr Richards believes is having an adverse affect on his business as he tries to get more drivers behind the wheel.
“I have got a business here that is offering jobs but I can’t fill them,” he said, “I need another four to six drivers to support our taxi fleet, but the process of getting them licensed now takes eight weeks longer than it used to.”
Originally, Wealden council were in charge of taxi licensing in the area, but they now share the burden with Rother. However, this has not helped speed the process up according to Mr Richards.
“I’m struggling to get anyone and if I lose a driver I can’t replace them,” he said. “We have got people ringing up and complaining they cannot ever get a taxi.”
The councils have said their regret the delays and revealed that they are considering using private agency to assist with the huge volume of applications.
“The paperwork has to be submitted to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea,” said Richard Parker Harding, head of environmental health for both councils. “Unfortunately we have been experiencing delays of eight to nine weeks for the return of completed submissions, and we are investigating the possibility of using private agencies who offer a dedicated service to speed up DVLA applications.”
But Mr Richards isn’t optimistic that the process will speed up anytime soon and believes that if he doesn’t have enough drivers to meet demand, then he will lose customers and his business will suffer.
“If you got made redundant from a job, could you wait three to four months for your new one to start?” he said. “I can get a job in a nursing home quicker than I can get a taxi licence. This threatens the future of my business and with today’s job problems surely the authorities should be doing more.”