West Berkshire Council

Agenda and minutes

Contact: Moira Fraser / Jo Reeves 

Items
No. Item

11.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 323 KB

To approve as a correct record the Minutes of the meeting of this Committee held on 24 June 2020.

Minutes:

The minutes of the previous meeting held on 24 June 2020 were approved as a true and correct record and signed by the Chairman.

12.

Declarations of Interest

Any Member with a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest in a matter should withdraw from the meeting when the matter is under consideration, and should notify the Democratic Services Officer in attendance that they are withdrawing as they have such an interest. If the Disclosable Pecuniary Interest is not entered on the register of Members’ Interests, the Monitoring Officer must be notified of the interest within 28 days.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest received.

13.

Notice of Public Speaking and Questions

Members of the JPPC to answer questions submitted by members of the public.

Minutes:

A full transcription of the public question and answer session is available from the following link: Transcription of Q&As.

13a

Question submitted by Ms Jackie Whitbread to the Chairman of the Committee

“Will the Chairman confirm that the use of a single recovery rate for all licensed Local Home Dog Boarders served by the Public Protection Partnership does not contravene requirements for separate accounting and without cross subsidisation between all licence holders, in the light of the Hemming v Westminster Court of Appeal 2013 case?”

Minutes:

The question submitted by Ms Jackie Whitbread in relation to the recovery rate for all licensed local home dog boarders served by the Public Protection Partnership would receive a written response from the Chairman of the Joint Public Protection Committee. 

13b

Question submitted by Ms Karen Fleck to the Chairman of the Committee

“Chairman, given that local authorities have a duty to set licensing fees at a reasonable and proportionate level, what comments will you make on the fact that the revised Dog Home Boarding Licence fees have been set at a level that exceeds the maximum fine legislated by parliament and is, therefore, likely to act as a deterrent to local businesses in these most difficult of times?

Minutes:

The question submitted by Ms Karen Fleck in relation to the revised dog home boarding licence fees would receive a written response from the Chairman of the Joint Public Protection Committee. 

13c

Question submitted by Mr Phil Hope to the Chairman of the Committee

“Can the PPP confirm that the Public Protection Partnership is legally compliant with the legislation for ‘the schemes for the licensing of houses in multiple occupation ('HMOs') under Part 2 of the Housing Act 2004 ('the 2004 Act') are authorisation schemes, within the meaning of EU Directive 2006/123/EC ('the Directive') and regulations incorporating the Directive in domestic law: the Provision of Services Regulations 2009 ('the 2009 Regulations')’?”

Minutes:

The question submitted by Mr Phil Hope in relation to the legislation for the licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation would receive a written response from the Chairman of the Joint Public Protection Committee. 

13d

Question submitted by Mr Phil Hope to the Chairman of the Committee

“Is the hourly fee of £57 per hour totalling 20 Hours for the licencing of Houses in Multiple Occupancy directly proportional to the administration of the HMO licencing scheme only and can evidence be provided to support this?”

Minutes:

The question submitted by Mr Phil Hope in relation to the hourly fee for the licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation would receive a written response from the Chairman of the Joint Public Protection Committee. 

14.

Future Plan

To detail future items that the Committee will be considering.

Minutes:

RESOLVED that the Future Plan be noted.

15.

Draft Revenue Budget 2021/22 pdf icon PDF 404 KB

To set out the draft revenue budget for 2021/22 including fees and charges.

To seek approval for the draft budget and draft fees and charges schedule prior to submission to the Councils in accordance with the Inter-Authority Agreement.

To seek approval for the recommendation to revise the fees for licences issued under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018.

To seek approval for the recommendation to revise the fees for Houses in Multiple Occupation issued under the Housing Act 2004.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report (Agenda Item 6) which set out the draft revenue budget for 2021/22 including fees and charges. The report sought approval of:

·         the draft budget, draft fees and the charges schedule prior to submission to the Councils in accordance with the Inter-Authority Agreement.

·         the recommendation to revise the fees for licences issued under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018.

·         the recommendation to revise the fees for Houses in Multiple Occupation issued under the Housing Act 2004.

Councillor Parry Batth introduced the item by informing the Committee of a request from Councillor Mary Temperton of Bracknell Forest Council to address Members on the licence fee for small businesses to look after dogs from their homes. The Committee would need to suspend standing orders in order to permit this.

Councillor John Harrison proposed to suspend standing orders and this was seconded by Councillor John Porter. The Committee voted to suspend standing orders.

Councillor Temperton addressed the Committee and made the following points:

·         As stated, she wanted to address the Committee in relation to the licence fee for small businesses to look after dogs from their homes.

·         She started by pointing out that the licence fee for hackney carriages and for private hire was £288 for new applications and £288 for renewals. The renewal fee did not include a new application fee.

·         She therefore asked why home dog boarders were required to pay, each year, an application fee of £228 and a renewal fee of £342. A total annual charge of £570. Councillor Temperton felt that the annual application fee needed to be reconsidered as she considered this to be unjust. 

·         She supported this by pointing out that the initial application process took more time than for a renewal. The initial application visit could take three hours and this was followed by an unannounced 30 minute visit during the year. The duration of the renewal application visit, which was more of a tick box exercise, was much shorter at 30 minutes. There was also the unannounced 30 minute visit. Councillor Temperton felt that the fees should reflect the time taken for the application and renewal processes.

·         There was no support available to new applicants on how to comply with the requirements. Applicants would either have to look to existing licence holders for advice or undertake research online. Greater support should be provided.

·         If a boarder did not comply with the requirements then the licence was not issued and they would need to reapply. A fine would be levied if a boarder operated without a licence. However, Councillor Temperton asked why enforcement costs were incorporated into the licensing application fee. Why was this the case when they had a licence? The unlicensed operators should be fined and the costs should not be passed on to the licensed boarders. They should not be penalised in this way.

·         Boarders should be made aware of and consulted on any increases in fees. Proposals to increase fees needed to  ...  view the full minutes text for item 15.

16.

PPP Private Sector Housing Policy pdf icon PDF 460 KB

To provide the Joint Public Protection Committee with an update on the work of PPP within Private Sector Housing and to highlight the high level priorities which we will undertake over the next 2 years.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report (Agenda Item 7) which provided an update on the work of the PPP within Private Sector Housing and which highlighted the high level priorities which would be undertaken over the next two years.

Rosalynd Gater, Commercial Team Manager, presented the report. She explained that the areas of priority over the next two years would include work with houses in multiple occupation (HMOs). The first phase of this work had already been undertaken with visits to approximately 450 licensed HMOs in the past year.

The second phase would cover those premises without a licence. Action would be taken to ensure that these licensing applications were processed and premises inspected to ensure compliance.

A survey would be conducted to inform the third phase of activity to identify HMOs that the service was unaware of and needed a licence.

The current capacity to undertake this extensive work was limited and three new officers had been recruited who would all take up their posts very soon. The recruitment of this additional resource showed the high priority given to this area of work.

Rosalynd Gater then explained that inspection work of caravan and park home sites was another key feature of the forthcoming work programme. The work included programmed visits to licensed sites (approximately 50 sites) and work to ensure that unlicensed sites applied for a licence and met the required standards. It was also the hope that the reactive work undertaken for caravan sites could be reduced by regularising sites.

It was also the intention to increase joint working with local authority housing services. Landlord forums would be established and condition surveys undertaken. A landlord accreditation scheme would be introduced.

Approval was sought from the Committee to issue civil penalty notices as an additional tool for the prosecution of relevant offences under the Housing act. There was a strong commitment to ensuring compliance within private sector housing.

Rosalynd Gater then drew Members attention to some revisions and additions to the report that had originally been circulated with the agenda. This revised version had been circulated but Rosalynd described where the changes had been made. This included greater information in some areas, i.e. cost recovery, and a simplification of information in some cases.

Councillor Parry Batth gave thanks for the excellent report.

Councillor James Cole queried the use of 2017 figures in relation to modern day slavery and whether this should be updated. Rosalynd Gater confirmed that she would double check this information to ensure it was accurate.

Councillor James Cole then asked if the rogue landlord database was in existence and if so the numbers on the database. Rosalyn Gater advised that the national database was in place. The numbers were extremely low for the Public Protection Partnership. The database was established on a national level as landlords often covered different local authority areas.

RESOLVED that:

·         the PPP role in relation to Private Sector Housing be noted.

·         the direction the PPP was taking in Private Sector Housing be approved.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 16.

17.

PPP Covid-19 Response and Recovery Update pdf icon PDF 537 KB

To provide the Joint Public Protection Committee with an update on the service response to Covid19 as well as an update on interim service delivery arrangements.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report (Agenda Item 8) which provided an update on the service response to Covid-19 and recovery work, and on the challenge of balancing Covid-19 related work with business as usual.

The report also provided an update on interim service delivery arrangements. The interim restructure commenced as planned on 1 August 2020 with the teams structured to undertake the wide range of services delivered by the Public Protection Partnership (PPP). The report highlighted this wide range of service delivery.

Sean Murphy, Public Protection Manager, explained that the report detailed areas of increased demand, such as an increase in bonfire enquiries, licensing enquiries, noise complaints and reports of fly tipping. However, there was a reduced requirement in some areas, i.e. for food standard inspections while the hospitality sector had been closed for a period of time.

A further section of the report described the PPP’s involvement in Covid-19 outbreak planning and investigation. The Service had been involved in the response to outbreaks in care homes and work places.

Work in relation to organised events had also increased with more events needing an assessment, with Covid-19 requirements to meet, than had been the case in previous years.

The PPP would continue its work with local businesses to support them and the economy. Online sessions had been made available to support businesses. In response to requests from businesses, premises had been visited to assist them either immediately prior to or post reopening. It was important to support businesses which in turn would improve consumer confidence.

Further detail was provided in the two Member updates and in the communications update appended to the report.

An ongoing challenge was the balancing of additional Covid-19 work with business as usual. This could result in difficult decisions needing to be taken in future based on the resources available.

Moving forward, there were also potential implications arising from Brexit. Regulatory services currently followed European legislation and this was clearly an area of change.

Councillor Chris Bowring queried the impact of Covid-19 on activity relating to the Licensing Act. For example, could the licence of a public house be called in if there was not adherence to requirements. Mr Murphy advised that legal action could be taken as outlined in the Coronavirus No. 3 Regulations. He was aware of some local authorities that had taken action against premises that had breached Covid-19 safety requirements.

Councillor John Porter queried if information could be provided, perhaps by the next meeting, on the number of Covid compliance tests that had been undertaken alongside conducting business as usual. Mr Murphy agreed to circulate this information.

Councillor Porter felt that it was important for premises to clearly understand that breaches of Covid-19 regulations would be taken very seriously. He felt this would support officers in conducting their work.

Councillor James Cole made a request for the next meeting for more information on case management work. The hours taken on the work and the costs incurred. Mr Murphy agreed to provide this  ...  view the full minutes text for item 17.

18.

Air Quality Status Reports pdf icon PDF 377 KB

To inform the Joint Public Protection Committee of the submission and results of the annual air quality reports for the 3 local authorities. These reports are for the monitoring data and action plan progress for the calendar year 2019.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report (Agenda Item 9) which informed Members of the submission and results of the annual air quality reports for the three local authorities. These reports were the monitoring data and action plan progress for the calendar year 2019. The annual status reports were available in full on the Partnership’s website.

Anna Smy, the Strategic Manager for Response, described the extensive work undertaken across the three local authorities in particular with transport policy, highways, public health and climate emergency colleagues, to seek improvements to air quality. This had involved discussions at existing meetings and internal working groups had been set up where necessary.

The annual status reports had been submitted to Defra and much positive feedback had been received from Defra.

Anna Smy explained that air quality had continued to be monitored throughout this calendar year. There had been an impact on traffic flows during Covid-19 and there had been a significant reduction in pollution during the lockdown period in comparison to the same period in previous years. There had been greater pedestrianisation during lockdown. Traffic flow information had been analysed with highway services to identify areas of learning.

It was also the case however that there had been reductions in the use of public transport and reduced car sharing arrangements and these were factors that could impact on air quality moving forward.

RESOLVED that:

·         the contents of the report and the three separate Air Quality Annual Status reports be noted.

·         the feedback from Defra on the reports be noted.

·         the progress on the measures to improve air quality set out in each report be noted. 

·         the ongoing and planned future measures to improve air quality set out in each report be approved.

19.

Any other items the Chairman considers to be urgent

Minutes:

No urgent items were raised.