Taxi drivers celebrate as ‘restrictive’ policy is overturned by MCC

The Abergavenny Chronicle reports that TAXI drivers in Monmouthshire are celebrating after a council policy restricting the number of seats allowed in a vehicle was overturned.

Under the policy, taxis with eight passenger seats were only allowed if one seat was removed to allow access to a door.

This meant taxis with eight seats including one folding seat were not allowed.

The policy was implemented for safety reasons with the view that passengers had a greater chance of escape if they did not have to climb over a seat to exit the vehicle.

But it made it increasingly difficult for taxi drivers across Monmouthshire to purchase reasonably priced vehicles.

It also saw them struggle to compete for contracts for eight-seater taxis with neighbouring authorities who now have different policies in place.

When Monmouthshire County Council first adopted the policy in 2002, it was also followed by most other authorities in Wales.

However, new guidance from the Department for Transport in 2010 ruled the policy may be ‘restrictive.’

Safety features on vehicles have also been improved in recent years, leading to many councils now changing their policy.

Monmouthshire County Council’s licensing and regulatory committee heard on Tuesday that the vast majority of taxi drivers had asked for the policy to be changed.

At a transport consultation event, 20 drivers called for the policy to be changed, with just one saying it should stay the same.

Speaking at the meeting, Richard Horner, of Abergavenny Taxis, said the company is unable to bid on many contracts for eight-seater vehicles due to the policy.

Mr Horner said the company is also unable to update its fleet of 16 vehicles.

Paul Watkins, of Paul’s Cars, who requested for the policy to be changed last year, also said he wanted the policy to be overturned.

However, he said the change was now being made by the council to save money.

He said: “I’m hearing a very different tone and it’s quite clear the agenda is about cost saving not actually safety.”

But Kellie Beirne, deputy chief executive of MCC, disputed the claim.

Ms Beirne said the feedback received during the transport consultation event had been a “turning point.”

She said changing the policy would help get children to school safely as part of the council’s home to school transport.

“This is not about a cost-saving agenda,” she told the meeting.

“This is about making sure we have enough money in the pot to meet the demand as efficiently and effectively as possible.”

Cllr Richard Roden (Dixton with Osbaston ward) said the change would help get more modern vehicles on the road to transport children safely to school.

Councillors voted to change the policy.