TAXI drivers in West Berkshire could soon face more stringent licence checks as councillors consider adopting new guidance.

Applying for a licence to drive a taxi requires a criminal record check to ensure the driver is ‘fit and proper’.

Drivers convicted of certain crimes must wait several years before they can receive a licence to drive a taxi. Currently, the amount of time varies across the country.

But new national guidance from the Institute of Licensing (IoL) aims to create more consistency. West Berkshire Council’s licensing committee will vote on June 24 whether to adopt the new guidance.

The council’s current guidance is ‘significantly more lenient’ than the IoL’s, according to a report by Suzanne McLaughlin, principle officer for policy and governance.

For example, the IoL says all violent offences should result in a ban of 10 years, whereas current guidance in West Berkshire for a single violent offence is just three years.

Sexual offences currently mean a ban of at least five years, but the IoL says this should be a lifetime ban.

Other offences are not currently specified in the current guidance, like possession of a weapon or causing death by dangerous driving, which are included in the IoL’s.

IoL guidance also introduces bans for those convicted of child sexual exploitation, grooming, and refusing to carry disabled people.

Ms McLaughlin said the a robust policy would be ‘good for consumer protection, personal safety, consumer confidence and ultimately the trade’.

She said: “Taxis are used by a large selection of the public, but most regularly they are used by vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, disabled people and the intoxicated.

“These groups in particular and lone females are placing themselves, and their personal safety, completely in the hands of a driver.”

The licensing committee will consider whether to adopt the IoL guidance in full, or with some timescales changed.

The council consulted during April and May, by emailing 371 licence holders. Ten taxi drivers and one councillor responded. Views were mixed, with some saying new guidance was too severe, while others said parts didn’t go far enough.