Taxi drivers, fleet operators and, crucially, the public, will be asked whether closed circuit TV should be mandatory for all taxis and private hire vehicles licensed in Swindon.

The borough council’s licensing committee voted unanimously to put a proposal to require drivers to have cameras installed forward for an eight-week consultation.

Licensing manager Kathryn Ashton said a consultation on this issue had been conducted in 2018-19, but progress on the issue had been affected by both the Covid-19 pandemic and a delay in updated advice from central government.

She told the members that advice had now been received and it was largely positive about CCTV in the vehicles.

Whitehall said: “The use of CCTV can provide a safer environment for the benefit of taxi/private hire vehicle passengers and drivers by deterring and preventing the occurrence of crime, reducing the fear of crime, assisting the police in investigating incidents of crime and assisting insurance companies in investigating motor vehicle accidents.”

It has told local authorities they should consult with the public and look into making CCTV compulsory in all taxis and private hire vehicles.

Ms Ashton said: “CCTV can also protect drivers.

"We get complaints from passengers, and we get complaints from drivers as well. Cameras can help with those complaints.

Andrew Lucas, a former chairman of the Swindon Hackney Drivers’ Association said he and many other drivers he had spoken to were not against the consultation.

But they did have some concerns and questions about the knock-on effects of making CCTV compulsory.

He said the costs of installing the equipment is a significant issue and asked whether neighbouring authorities would be involved in the consultation.

“Many drivers do work particularly in north Wiltshire for the authority, school trips and hospital trips.

"There is a shortage of wheelchair accessible vehicles in Wiltshire so drivers in Swindon do a lot of work , trips to hospital and the like, with wheelchair users.

“We would be concerned if a change in policy here meant that drivers lost long-standing contracts which make them thousands of pounds if there was a conflict with a neighbouring authority.”

Ms Ashton said neighbouring authorities would be included in the consultation which would include all drivers and operators, the police, the night-time economy via Pubwatch, and the public.

Committee chairman Dale Heenan asked the licensing team that after the consultation is completed a report be brought to

"We need it to cover all the issues: cost and whether drivers will pay up front or through their fees, data security, whether it’s audio as well as pictures, and whether we need a report to cabinet,” he said.

The consultation will begin on December 1 and run for eight weeks until January 26.

Earlier in the meeting, speaking in a personal capacity, Mr Lucas took issue with how Coun Heenan had talked about the issue when the meeting’s agenda papers were published.

The councillor had tweeted about how Swindon taxi-driver Christopher Halliwell had abducted then murdered Sian O’Callaghan who had got into his taxi to go home after a night out in March 2011. Coun Heenan said he hoped as many people as possible, especially women would respond to the consultation is it was approved

Mr Lucas said: “I have spoken to a number of other drivers, and they agree with me that this was not helpful to bring this up again as it was in an article in the Swindon Advertiser.

“The vetting and the DBS checks have been beefed up since then.

"CCTV would be a measure to enhance the vetting and DBS checks.It will not be the thing that keeps people safe," he said.

“We are safe as taxi drivers if we are doing the job properly, and it is not helpful to the trade, or to the public to suggest that we are not safe.”

Coun Heenan said he had not read the article and could not comment on how it had reported his words.

But he said he would check after the meeting was concluded.