TAXI fares in West Berkshire could increase as part of a plan to cover the rising cost of taxi licenses.

Taxi drivers must be licensed by the council which currently costs £161 per vehicle, but this will increase in April to £282.

West Berkshire Council recently heard objections from taxi drivers who said the increases were too expensive and appeared arbitrary.

Graham Cox, representing the taxi trade, said: “There’s nothing to show [the council] isn’t actually making a profit out of us. My concern is if we get these abominable increases, we still don’t get the service we are paying for. What is going to change apart from the trade being ripped off?”

Several taxi drivers complained of poor enforcement of the licensing system, claiming some drivers in West Berkshire drive without a taxi licence and dodge the fee.

Charlie Fletcher, the licensing officer for WBC who proposed the fee changes, was questioned by taxi drivers and councillors how he came up with the new charges and what benefits drivers would see as a result of paying more.

Mr Fletcher suggested that maximum fares, which are also set by the council, could increase to cover the cost of the higher licence fees. This would mean passing the extra expense onto passengers.

He said the fee increases were to cover the council’s cost of providing the licensing service — £55 per hour.

The new fees will come into effect April 1. Mr Fletcher asked taxi drivers to work with the council next year to help set future fees and fare increases together, ahead of the financial year beginning April 2020.

Councillor Jeff Beck said: “We have to make it full cost, it’s clear that we haven’t done this for a long time. I’m happy with the figures that I’ve seen, they do add up. It does make very good sense to have a working party during the next few months. A lot of things can be brought to light.”

Mr Cox said: “I’m certainly in for [the working group]. For the last few years the trade hasn’t been considered in anything.”