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 eight-seater taxis with one folding seat were not licensed.

The policy was implemented in 2016 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 has made it increasingly difficult for taxi drivers across Monmouthshire to purchase affordable vehicles.

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

Safety features on vehicles have been improved in recent years, leading to many councils changing their policy. Monmouthshire County Council’s licensing and regulatory committee heard yesterday that at a transport consultation event, 20 drivers called for the policy to be changed, with just one saying it should remain.

Speaking at the meeting, Richard Horner, of Abergavenny Taxis, said the company is unable to update its fleet of 16 vehicles due to the policy.

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 claimed 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.

Cllr Richard Roden said the change would help get more modern vehicles on the to transport children to school.

The change was approved.