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To receive apologies for absence and notification of substitutes
Apologies for absence were received from Councillor M. A. Sherrey and Councilllor C. J. Spencer. Councillor S. A. Webb attended as substitute for Councillor Sherrey.
Declarations of Interest
To invite Councillors to declare any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests or Other Disclosable Interests they may have in items on the agenda, and to confirm the nature of those interests.
There were no declarations of interest.
The minutes of the Licensing Committee held on 18th November 2019 were submitted.
RESOLVED that the minutes of the Licensing Committee held 18th November 2019, be approved as a correct record.
Members considered a report in relation to the recently published Department for Transport guidance “Statutory Taxi & Private Hire Standards”.
The Senior Practitioner (Licensing), Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS), presented the report and in doing so explained that the guidance had been issued under section 177 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017. The Council would be under a legal duty to have regard to the Standards in its role as a public authority carrying out licensing functions under taxi and private hire legislation.
The background was that section 177 enabled the issuing of guidance to direct licensing authorities as to how to exercise their functions to protect children and vulnerable individuals. This latest guidance had been prompted to a large degree by the Jay and Casey reports into child sexual abuse and exploitation in Rotherham which had linked the involvement of taxi/private hire drivers to incidents of abuse of children.
The public consultation on the guidance had taken place between February 2019 and April 2019 and following a lengthy period of consideration of the responses, the guidance was issued on 21st July 2020. Members were referred to the text of the guidance which was attached to the report at Appendix 1.
In summary, the guidance (referred to hereinafter as the Standards), set out a number of recommendations to Licensing Authorities relating to the processes and procedures which should be in place for taxi and private hire licensing; there was a clear expectation from the Department of Transport that the recommendations should be implemented.
The members were referred to the list of recommendations at part 3.7 of the report, namely: -
· Criminality checks for licence holders
· Working with the Police
· Sharing information with other licensing authorities
· Dealing with complaints about drivers and operators
· Training for Members
· Criminal convictions and rehabilitation of offenders
· Safeguarding awareness advice, guidance and training for drivers
· Language proficiency
· CCTV in licensed vehicles
· Regulation of booking and dispatch staff
· Record keeping
The members were advised by the Senior Practitioner (Licensing), Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS), that the next stage would be for officers to review the existing policies and procedures to establish where changes would have to be made to bring them into line with the Standards. Examples of key policies this process would affect were the fit and proper test, the policy on previous convictions, the licence conditions and vehicle standards.
In responding to questions from members, the Senior Practitioner (Licensing), Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS), the following points were noted: -
· That most local authorities, including the District Council, were already implementing the majority of the recommendations, although there might be a few authorities that needed to make improvements. There was still however an exercise to be carried out to review the existing policies and pick up on any changes that might be required.
· With regard to DBS checks, these were currently renewed every three years. There was a safety net in place whereby any offences occurring in between checks should be reported either by the drivers or ... view the full minutes text for item 4/20
Verbal Update on the work that Worcestershire Regulatory Services has undertaken since early March 2020 in response to Covid-19, including a summary of decisions taken under delegated authority - Senior Licensing Practitioner
Members received a verbal report in relation to the work that Worcestershire Regulatory Services had undertaken in response to the Covid-19 pandemic since March 2020 from the Senior Practitioner (Licensing), Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS).
In the initial stages when lockdown was imposed in March 2020 there were challenges in setting up staff to work from home and in making alternative arrangements for licensed drivers to access the team given that government buildings had been closed and it was no longer possible to hold the usual licensing surgeries.
It was necessary to work quickly to introduce new systems to enable applications to be submitted electronically and for customers to be communicated with.
Other steps taken at this stage included: -
· Communicating with licence holders to signpost them to the government support schemes, such as the Self-Employment income Support Scheme.
· Allowing licensed drivers whose licences expired after March 2020 to defer renewal for up to 6 months without being classed as a “new applicant”
· Regularly publishing advice to licensed drivers on the steps they could take to work safely during the pandemic.
Decision making powers were delegated by the Council to the head of Worcestershire Regulatory Services to enable him to determine taxi and private hire applications which would normally have been referred to the Licensing Sub-Committee. It was noted that whilst those powers remained in place, to date it had not been necessary for any decisions to be taken.
With regard to the mandatory closure of pubs and restaurants, the Licensing officers worked with colleagues from the Environmental Health Team to monitor compliance with the business closure regulations.
Changes were introduced to allow pubs and restaurants more time to pay their annual premises licence fees, and advice was issued on the WRS website to assist those business which might be able to adapt to providing take away or delivery services.
Following the decision by the government to start opening non-essential commercial premises, hospitality venues were permitted to re-open from 4th July 2020. Licensing officers worked with both Environmental Health Officers and the Police to visit licensed premises when they re-opened to ensure they were following guidance and operating safely.
The guidance was regularly updated and officers responded to numerous enquiries from business operators and from the public wishing to clarify what businesses could and could not do.
Whilst overall there were very good levels of compliance by businesses wanting to make their premises safe, some complaints were received from the public and this was another area where the Licensing officers had worked with other colleagues to investigate concerns.
In late July the government introduced measures in the Business and Planning Act 2020 to enable “pavement licences” to be issued. The aim was to provide extra outdoor seating capacity on the highway adjacent to businesses which c
would help with social distancing and boost profitability. The new measures were introduced with very short timescales and officers had to work quickly to process applications.
The same legislation also made changes to ... view the full minutes text for item 5/20
The Committee considered the Work Programme for 2020/21.
The Senior Practitioner (Licensing), Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) discussed the Work Programme with Members and in doing so it was noted that: -
· The review of the Street Collection Policy and Regulations would now be progressed following the delay due to Covid-19.
· The review of the Council’s policy on the Guidance Relating to the Relevance of Convictions and Cautions for Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Drivers would form part of the overall review of all policies in response to the Department for Transport Guidance “Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Standards”.
RESOLVED that the Licensing Committee Work Programme for 2020/2021 be updated to include the items discussed and agreed during the course of the meeting.