Too fat to fit eight people in an eight-person taxi

Taxi driver Haroon Mirza
Taxi driver Haroon Mirza

A taxi driver has been unable to get an eight-seater licence for his eight-seater car because one seat is 1cm too narrow.

Haroon Mirza, who lives in Wellingborough but drives a taxi in Kettering, has fallen foul of rules aimed at accommodating expanding waistlines.

He bought a Citroen Sentinel last year. However, he was shocked when Kettering Council refused to grant him a licence to carry eight passengers because his front seat, where two passengers can sit, was deemed too narrow.

As a result he was granted a licence to carry seven passengers – although he has to pay insurance for eight.

Kettering Council’s health services manager, Russ Howell, responding to a complaint lodged by Mr Mirza, said the council’s decision was because seating space is at a premium in modern vehicles.

In a letter, he added: “Yet it is a well published fact that the population is getting larger.”

Mr Mirza said: “My front seat measures 31.5 inches and the council says it has to measure 32 inches.

“There are other taxis on the roads with narrower front seats which have licences to carry eight passengers.

“It is not fair and it costs me money when I have to turn groups away because I can’t carry them all.”

A spokesman for Kettering Council said Mr Mirza had the opportunity to appeal against the licensing decision but had not done so.

He added: “We have minimum dimensions for our seats which are based on those laid down in national legislation for minibuses and have been in place for years.

“As a licensing authority we have a responsibility for the safety of the travelling public – if the seats are too small people cannot sit on them properly and may also impinge on the driver space if there is not enough room.

“Licensing legislation relates to the safety and comfort of the travelling public not the business interests of the operator. We would always recommend a licence applicant talk to us first before they buy a vehicle.”

In one of the letters responding to Mr Mirza, the council said that other taxis may have licences despite having smaller seats, but when these were taken off the roads their replacements would be required to meet the 32 inch dimension.