Taxis in go-slow protest at hired-in rival cabbies in Loughborough
Dozens of taxi drivers held a "go-slow" demonstration through Loughborough in protest about the amount of private hire licences handed out by the council.
Independent cabbies said the town had become "saturated" with drivers, and that they were finding it hard to compete with big companies recruiting more lower-paid drivers from countries such as Romania and Poland.
More than 40 cabbies took part in Tuesday's demonstration, which started near Hathern and travelled through the town, past the Charnwood Borough Council offices in Southfield Road.
Driver Paul Harrison was among those taking part.
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The 62-year-old, from Loughborough, said: "They keep issuing the plates, and there are far too many drivers in the area – it is saturated.
"The big companies are going over to Romania and places like that to employ people. They are putting them on the roads and there just isn't enough jobs to support everyone now."
Paul said his takings had gone down by about 70 per cent in the past three years.
John Taylor, from Loughborough, has been a cabbie for 33 years.
The 58-year-old said: "Last month I was making about £4.75 an hour average, compared to about £9 or £10 an hour a few years ago," he said.
"They are importing the drivers now and they are being given licences by the council within a matter of weeks."
Ashley David Taxis, in Baxtergate, Loughborough, uses recruitment firms to source staff in Romania, Italy and Poland. It has seen its fleet increase from 15 cars to almost 80 in the last five years.
Fleet director Ashley Butcher said he employed Leicestershire people, but had widened his search when he found he was no longer able to attract suitable drivers.
"The reason we did that is because when we put adverts out we got very little take-up, or if they did come they could only do 16 hours a week," he said.
"We do use these recruitment agencies that are bringing people in – much like the hotel industry – because they will work the hours and work for minimum wage.
"Unfortunately, due to our overheads, we are not in a position to pay more.
"It is something that is being done across the country."
Mr Butcher said he did not agree there were too many taxis in the town.
"We are busy," he said. "Sometimes we are short of drivers. There is work out there."
Charnwood Borough Council, which oversees the licensing of taxis in the area, said it had received a petition from drivers as part of their protest, but was unable to legally limit the amount of taxis on the road.
A spokesman said the total amount of licences issued had increased only slightly in the past five years.
He said: "The council sympathises with any business suffering in the current economic climate because one of our priorities is to foster growth and prosperity in Charnwood.
"It is important to note that although there seems to be a perception that there has been a surge in the number of taxis in Charnwood, the actual figures show only a slight increase in licences issued from 391 vehicles in 2007-8 to 403 in 2011-12.
"The Law Commission is carrying out a review of legislation around taxi licensing which could change the landscape in future.
"The council will, therefore, keep this situation under review to determine if appropriate controls are required."