Agenda and draft minutes
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To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting of this Committee held on 21 February 2019 (Special) and 21 May 2019.
The Minutes of the meetings held on 21 February 2019 and 21 May 2019 were approved as a true and correct record and signed by the Chairman subject to the inclusion of Councillor James Cole being listed as being present at the 21 February 2019 meeting.
Declarations of Interest
To remind Members of the need to record the existence and nature of any personal, disclosable pecuniary or other registrable interests in items on the agenda, in accordance with the Members’ Code of Conduct.
There were no declarations of interest received.
(Councillor Martha Vickers arrived at 4.40pm)
To consider replacing the Council’s existing criminal convictions guidance document with a more comprehensive policy, which has been drafted to reflect the recently published ‘Guidance on determining the suitability of applicants and licensees in the hackney and private hire trades’, produced and published by the Institute of Licencing.
The Committee considered a report (Agenda Item 4) which set out proposals that had been consulted upon since the Committee Meeting on the 11 February 2019. Officers had considered the responses and where appropriate had amended the guidance issued by the Institute of Licensing. The responses to the consultation were included in the paperwork at Appendix H. The changes were summarised in Appendix F. It was explained that in excess of 300 emails had been sent out and only 11 responses had been received.
Members were being asked to consider the document and decide if any additional changes were needed.
Suzanne McLaughlin explained that it was being proposed that the fit and proper test would be applied to existing licence holders and new applicants for Hackney Carriage driver licences, Private Hire driver licences, and Private Hire Operators licences. Officers were advocating that the Council’s existing criminal convictions guidance document be replaced with a more comprehensive policy. The intention would be to work towards a national policy with minor changes to reflect local issues so that licence holders were subject to the same scrutiny irrespective of where the licence was issued in order to protect customers.
Councillor James Cole noted that the authors of the Institute of Licencing guidance were eminent experts in this field and there he believed that cognisance should be taken of their advice.
Councillor Adrian Abbs noted that the revised rules would be applied to both new and existing licence holders and he queried if the legal implications of this had been looked into. Suzanne McLaughlin explained that legal advice had been sought and read out that advice .In essence the advice stated that both the guidance and case law set out that each case had to be determined on its own merits at the time and that there would be no blanket response to say that an applicant would not have their license renewed just because the Council’s polices had changed. It was noted that this aspect was referred to in paragraph 1.4 of the policy which was set out on page 55 of the paperwork.
Members discussed potential concerns about applying the revised policy to existing license holders. Potentially existing licence holders that had been permitted to operate might no longer be able to do so due to changes to the exclusion periods as well as the introduction of new categories.
Sean Murphy explained that most licence holders renewed their licences every three years albeit that it was possible to renew it annually. If a crime was committed in the interim period the police would inform the Council. He reminded Members that the exclusions would only be applied where a licence holder was convicted. The decision to prosecute would be made by the Crown Prosecution Service. They would need to apply the public interest test and it was conceivable that not all cases would go to court.
Councillor Peter Argyle noted the requirement to consider each case on its own merits. He suggested that it ... view the full minutes text for item 6.
To set out the work of the Licensing Committee in 2018/19 as well as the work of the Licensing Service as delivered through the Public Protection Partnership.
The Committee considered a report (Agenda Item 5) which set out the work of the Licensing Committee in 2018/19 as well as the work of the Licensing Service as delivered through the Public Protection Partnership.
Suzanne McLaughlin explained that Officers used a risk based assessment programme to visit licensed premises to check compliance and provide assistance and advice for those businesses. In 2018/2019 officers carried out 172 inspections, compared to 202 in 2017/2018 and 179 in 2016/2017. In addition the Licensing Section dealt with 199 complaints and requests for service in 2018/2019 (compared with 210 in 2017/2018 and 181 in 2016/2017).
(Councillor Graham Bridgman arrived at 5.56pm)
Suzanne McLaughlin noted that the service had set itself a baseline for 2018/19 for the first time to issue licences within statutory timescales or 5 working days from receipt of a complete and valid application. The service achieved this for 75.7% of the applications. This would be reviewed in 2019/20, including the increase in resources required to improve this delivery percentage. Councillor Jeff Beck queried what percentage of applications had to be returned. Officers agreed to provide this information to Members once they had the chance to look into it. (SM to Action). Sean Murphy noted that the three organisations in the partnership used different operating systems which impacted negatively on resilience. Following the restructure which came into effect of the 01 April 2019 they would all be working to one manager which should help to improve resilience. Capacity was also being improved in the team.
Councillor David Marsh noted that Appendix D made reference to one application in 2018/19 for a dangerous wild animal and he queried what this related to. Officers agreed to look into this and to let him know. (SM to Action)
Members welcomed the comparative data across the three authorities. Councillor Graham Bridgman asked if there was any data available about fee income across the three authorities. Seam Murphy noted that fees and charges would be discussed at the next meeting and this could be considered as part of that work.
RESOLED that the content of the report and Licensing Committee and Service related activity for 2018/19 be noted.
That the Committee notes the Forward Plan and provides comments to the Chairman on both the scheduled items and any further items they would like to see considered at forthcoming Committee meetings.
The Forward Plan was noted.
The Chairman stated that he would like to see an item included on the forward plan relating to the environmental impact of taxis.
Sean Murphy noted that following previous discussions on fees and charges a working group had been set up involving Members, Officers and trade representatives. The group had met twice already but he confirmed that another meeting was needed to go through the final proposals. This would need to take place within the following four weeks in order to get to an agreed position prior to the report coming to Committee for consideration prior to it going to full Council for approval.
Councillor Adrian Abbs asked what could be done to encourage a greener approach by the trade. Councillor Graham Bridgman explained that this would need to be addressed through the fees and not through fares.
Officers noted that the Forward Plan would need to be amended on an ongoing basis.