Agenda and draft minutes

Licensing Committee - Tuesday, 21st November, 2023 6.30 pm

Download documents using the MOD.GOV app

Venue: Council Chamber, Town Hall, Royal Tunbridge Wells, TN1 1RS. View directions

Contact: Democratic Services Team 

Media

Items
No. Item

LC10/23

Chair's Introduction pdf icon PDF 91 KB

Announcement on procedural matters.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The Chair opened the meeting, introduced Committee Members and Officers in attendance, and outlined procedural matters of the meeting.

LC11/23

Apologies for Absence pdf icon PDF 28 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Apologies were received from Councillors Allen, Pope and Webster.

LC12/23

Declarations of Interest pdf icon PDF 66 KB

To receive any declarations of interest by members in items on the agenda.  For any advice on declarations of interest, please contact the Monitoring Officer.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest made.

LC13/23

Notification of Visiting Members wishing to speak (in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 18): pdf icon PDF 29 KB

Members should indicate which item(s) they wish to speak on and the nature of their concern/question/request for clarification.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Ms Toni Conlon was registered to speak on agenda item LC16/23 Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy Review 2023-2028.

 

Mr Clayton Berry was registered to speak on agenda item LC16/23 Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing: Licence Fees and Charges 2024/2025.

LC14/23

Minutes of the Previous Meeting dated 12 September 2023 pdf icon PDF 61 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

RESOLVED – That that the minutes of the previous meeting dated 12 September 2023 be approved as a correct record.

LC15/23

Reports of Head of Housing, Health and Environment

Additional documents:

LC16/23

Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing Policy Review 2023-2028 pdf icon PDF 185 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Sharon Degiorgio, Senior Licensing Officer, presented the report as per the agenda.

 

Mrs. Toni Conlon, registered speaker, addressed the committee.

Key points included:

·         Apologies were made for the tone of written submission.

·         Details of financial losses as a result of taking card payments were shared.

·         The differing risk for Hackney Carriages versus private hire operators was highlighted.

 

Mr Clayton Berry, registered speaker, addressed the committee.

Key points included:

·         Taking card payments was not a safety issue.

·         The challenges of working ‘offline’ in areas with poor signal was raised which added to the risk of financial loss.

·         The point was made that private hire operators were able to mitigate losses through increased charges which Hackney Carriage operators were unable to do.

 

Questions from Members and Officer clarification included:

 

·         It was clarified that there had been approximately 20 complaints received from members of the public requesting the option to pay by card.

·         The Hackney Carriage Demand Survey undertaken by an independent company included the recommendation for a card payment facility option.

·         It was noted that a card payment had meant that a driver had been able to prove location and time when needed.

·         Possible solutions to offline payment issues gleaned from other Councils were shared. It was clarified that some payment machines were able to process payments when the machine was back in signal. Members were reminded that signal issues were outside of Council control. A charge for using the machine would need to be borne by the user.

·         It was noted that, taking the responses from other Councils into consideration, the use of card machines was generally supported nationally. The benefits in terms of safety and convenience outweighed the concerns.

·         Consideration was being given to a policy change to include a complaints process as an additional safety issue.  This would be put forward for consultation.

·         It was noted that the council does not get involved in non-payment matters. Non-payment was clarified as a criminal offence and should be reported to the police.

·         It was confirmed that any additional fee proposed by the Trade for a customer choosing to pay by card would be considered a surcharge which would not be permitted. However, the trade could request a fare review in respect of the hackney carriage fares in the usual way.

·         It was noted that taxis were likely to be losing customers if they did not have a card payment facility. Accepting cards would be a mandatory requirement moving forward.

·         The issue of declined payments was revisited and the comparison between payment for retail goods and services was made. It was noted that drivers could ask for payment in advance and refund any over-payment at the end of the journey if there was a concern about the possibility of non-payment.

·         Mandatory card payments had been implemented across many local Councils and reflected the general trend towards the acceptance of cards as a payment option.

·         It was confirmed that the trade were aware of the actions they needed to take in the event  ...  view the full minutes text for item LC16/23

LC17/23

Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing: Licence Fees and Charges 2024/2025 pdf icon PDF 137 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Sharon Degiorgio, Senior Licensing Officer presented the report as per the agenda.

 

Questions from Members and Officer clarification included:

·         It was clarified that the proposed increases related purely to taxi fees and charges and administration hub fees.

·         It was confirmed that the increases were in line with current rates of inflation.

·         Clarification was sought regarding the fluctuation in charges – up and down – that were included in the report. It was noted that the annual fee review included detailed analysis of costs. Where processes had changed and become more streamlined, cost fluctuations in the report reflected this. The proposed charges purely ensured that costs were covered.

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.    That the proposed fees set out in Appendix B for publication, consultation, and implementation with effect from 1 April 2024, subject to consideration of any unresolved written objections at Licensing Committee on 19 March 2024, be agreed.

LC18/23

Licensing Fees and Charges 2024/2025 pdf icon PDF 166 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Sharon Degiorgio, Senior Licensing Officer presented the report as per the agenda.

 

Questions from Members and Officer clarification included:

·         It was noted that some fees were substantially higher than others and it was queried whether these were set at a cost recovery value. The differential between licence fees was clarified, noting that the complexity of granting licenses for some venues, such as Sexual Entertainment Licenses, incurred significantly higher costs as a result.

·         It was clarified that it was necessary to have a fee in place for a Sexual Entertainment License should an application be made.

·         It was noted that fees were not set as a means of encouraging or discouraging businesses from coming into the Borough. It was suggested that a means of demonstrating how charges were arrived at might be a sensible provision for future reference.

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.    That the fee levels to take effect from 1 April 2024, as set out in Appendices A, B, and C of the report, be approved.

2.    That the nationally set fees for 2024/25 as set out in Appendix D, be noted.

LC19/23

Pavement Licensing - review of policy and setting of fees pdf icon PDF 176 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Sharon Bamborough, Head of Licensing presented the report as per the agenda.

 

Questions from Members and Officer clarification included:

·         The high level of work and input from TWBC Officer, Sharon Degiorgio, was acknowledged as being instrumental in the production of the report.

·         Use of the word ‘may’ in regard to enforcement was clarified. Generally, the word ‘may’ meant that the Council had discretion in whether or not to take action and the timescale in which the action is taken. If the word ‘must’ was used, the Council had to take action.

·         It was noted that 12 months was the timescale for licenses to reflect continuity of current practice, allowing regular review to include the streetscape. A two-year license was to be the exception rather than the rule for this reason. Fees were noted for both options should the need arise.

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.    That the proposed draft revision of the Pavement Licensing Policy and the proposed changes (which are made to be in line with recent changes to legislation) - to take effect upon commencement of Schedule 22 of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023, be approved.

2.    That the proposed fees for applications set out in Appendix B, to take effect upon commencement of Schedule 22 of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023, be approved.

LC20/23

Urgent Business pdf icon PDF 28 KB

To consider any other items which the Chairman decides are urgent, for the reasons to be stated, in accordance with Section 100B(4) of the Local Government Act 1972.

 

Additional documents:

Minutes:

There was no urgent business for consideration.

LC21/23

Date of Next Meeting pdf icon PDF 28 KB

Additional documents:

Minutes:

The next meeting of the Licensing Committee was scheduled for Tuesday 19 March 2024.