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LICENSING COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 4th November, 2015.

 

Present:  Councillor A.G. Powell (Chairman); Councillors P.J. Clarke, G.A. Cox, Mrs. P. Drake, K. Hatton, Mrs. A.J. Moore, Mrs. A.J. Preston, J.W. Thomas and Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson.

 

 

563     APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE – 

 

These were received from Councillor H.C. Hamilton (Vice-Chairman); Councillors C.P.J. Elmore, E. Hacker, Mrs. V.M. Hartrey, Ms. R.F. Probert and R.P. Thomas.

 

 

564     MINUTES – 

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 29th September, 2015 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

565     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

566     DEREGULATION ACT 2015 – HACKNEY CARRIAGE AND PRIVATE HIRE DUAL DRIVERS LICENCES FEES (DEHS) –

 

The Committee received a report which recommended new licence fees for Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Dual Drivers Licences to reflect a change to the duration of a licence being brought into effect by the Deregulation Act 2015. The Deregulation Act 2015 amended the section of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 that set out the duration of licences for Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Driver Licences. The present practice in the Vale of Glamorgan Council was to grant these licences for a maximum period of one year.

 

The amendments made by the Deregulation Act establish a standard duration for a driver licence of three years, however a licence may be granted for a shorter period where there was a justifiable reason.  This reason would be related to the circumstances of an individual case and could not be applied as a blanket policy.

 

Section 53 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 allowed the Council to charge fees in respect of Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Drivers Licences.  The Council must set the fees for these licences on the basis that it only recovered costs which it was entitled statutorily to recover.

 

In respect of drivers licences the Act stated that the Council may charge “such a fee as it considers reasonable with a view to recovering the costs of issue and administration associated with the grant of Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Drivers Licences”.  Consequently, enforcement costs in relation to drivers’ licences could not be recovered through the licence fee.

 

Case Law had established that when the Council makes a surplus in respect of licence fees it should give account for that the next time that the fees are set; and if it incurred a deficit it may also take that into account.  The calculation in respect of each type of licence issued by the Council should be kept separate.

 

All new Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Drivers are required to produce an enhanced DBS certificate prior to the grant of their licence, and once licenced, this Council's policy was that drivers were required to produce an enhanced DBS certificate on a triennial basis. The Licensing Authority required an enhanced DBS certificate to check for any criminal convictions / cautions in order to determine whether an applicant or an existing licence holder was a fit and proper person to hold a Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Drivers Licence.  The current fee of £44.00 was payable to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) in addition to the licence fee.

 

Now that drivers could be issued with a three year licence, this would result in the majority of drivers being required to produce a new DBS certificate at some point between licence renewals.  This was considered to be costly and bureaucratic for both the driver and Licensing Authority.

 

Members were advised that regard also needed to be given to mitigating the impact of all drivers submitting renewal applications on a three year cycle, which would result in peaks in resource demand and difficulties in financial budgeting.

 

In order to synchronise the DBS checks with licence renewals and reduce costs for both drivers and the Licensing Authority, it was proposed that drivers be offered a three year licence but must produce an enhanced DBS certificate regardless of whether it was due.  If drivers did not wish to pay for an additional DBS certificate they may have a one year licence renewal until their next DBS certificate was due.

 

Proposed fees for both one year licences and three year licences had therefore been calculated for approval.  A shorter period licence may also be appropriate in the case of disciplinary issues, but each case should be assessed on its merits.

 

The fee income for the financial year 2014/15 had been reviewed and the fees calculated using a software toolkit developed by the Wales Licensing Expert Panel.

All general expenditure across the Licensing Section had been applied to generate an hourly rate for each member of staff.  The cost of administration of the licence was based on these hourly rates and time recording exercises.

 

The proposed fees included a deficit cost of £45,923, which had to be reclaimed through the fees. The table of existing and proposed fees was attached to the report at Appendix A, this table also showed a comparison in relation to reclaiming the deficit over a three year period and a six year period.

 

Officers met with representatives from the Vale of Glamorgan Taxi Association in relation to the proposed fees and their representatives requested that further consideration was given to the proposed increase in the fees, and the deficit be reclaimed over an extended period of time. In view of the very steep increase in fees specified in Option 1 it was proposed that the deficit was recovered over a longer period of six years, as specified in Option 2.

 

Following the presentation of the report, a Member asked how any further deficit in the licence fees would be dealt with in the future. In response the Operational Manager for Neighbourhood Services advised that the deficit figure would be reviewed on an annual basis and would reflect the charges from the Shared Regulatory Services project. Any changes over the period would be taken into account in the calculation of future licence fees.  A Member asked over what period of time the deficit of £45,923 had been accrued. The Committee was advised that the last increase in fees was in 2010 and the 2015 figure was made up of the deficit figure in 2010 and the deficit accrued over the subsequent years to 2015. 

 

A Member queried whether the Council was obliged to recoup the deficit or not as the report stated that case law had established that surplus and deficits in respect of licence fees should be taken into account when setting fees.  The Committee was advised that ultimately it was a decision for the Licensing Committee. The Council could not include certain charges within the calculations for the licence fees such as enforcement fees; however, how the fees were recouped was a matter for the Council.

 

A Member asked whether there was an option for drivers to choose to have a one year licence as there was a large differential between the proposed fee for the three year and one year licences. The Committee was advised that the Deregulation Act stated that Councils should grant three year licences as standard, however, due to the cost implication of the three year licence to the driver, drivers could request to have a one year licence and the Licensing Authority could choose to grant a one year licence.  It was confirmed that drivers must produce an enhanced DBS certificate for a three year licence and this would be the same across the three Authorities involved in the Shared Regulatory Service.

 

Mr. Thomas, from the Vale of Glamorgan Taxi Association, was provided with an opportunity to make representations on the matter with the permission of the Committee. He advised that the Vale of Glamorgan Taxi Association was of the view that the proposed increase in fees in Option 1 of 41% and 43% were very high.  The Taxi Association understood that the deficit needed to be reclaimed, however the reason the licence fees had not been increased since 2010 was due to a judicial review of taxi licence fees in Cardiff, which they had not wanted. The fees proposed in Option 2, to reclaim the deficit over six years were sensible and could be reviewed annually.  Furthermore, he expressed the view that an increase of 41% and 43% would have a knock on effect for the taxi operators such as potential increases in taxi fares. 

 

Mr. Thomas also voiced concern in relation to the issuing of three year licences as a standard policy and expressed the view that the current practice of granting licences for one year should be kept for the time being.  In response, the Chairman expressed the view that the issuing of one year licences would be contrary to the aim of the Deregulation Act and furthermore it could come at a cost to the taxpayer.  The Operational Manager for Neighbourhood Services advised that the Deregulation Act did allow for one year licences to be granted in exceptional circumstances however this could not be applied as a blanket approach. 

 

A Member asked whether the decision to grant the one year licences to drivers would be a Committee decision and it was confirmed that it would be.

 

A Member queried whether drivers that were required to produce a valid medical certificate would be prevented from being granted a three year licence and it was confirmed that few drivers were required to have yearly medicals however, those drivers who were required to do so would not precluded from being granted a three year licence provided they could produce a valid medical certificate when required to do so.

 

Following consideration of the report, the Committee

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the proposed licence fees laid out in Option 2 of Appendix A to the report be approved with an implementation date of Monday, 30th November, 2015.

 

Reason for the decision

 

To ensure a reasonable proportion of the Council's costs are recovered in relation to Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing and that the costs of such licensing does not present a burden on local taxpayers.

 

 

567     DEREGULATION ACT 2015 – PRIVATE HIRE VEHICLE OPERATOR FEES (DEHS) –

 

The Committee received a report which recommended new licence fees for Private Hire Operator Licences to reflect a change to the duration of a licence being brought into effect by the Deregulation Act 2015. The Deregulation Act 2015 amended the section of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 that sets out the duration of licences for Private Hire Operator Licences. The present practice in the Vale of Glamorgan Council was to grant these licences for a period of either one year or three years.

 

The amendments made by the Deregulation Act established a standard duration for a Private Hire Operators Licence of five years.  A licence may be granted for a shorter period where there was a justifiable reason.  This reason would be related to the circumstances of an individual case and could not be applied as a blanket policy. Section 70 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 allowed the Council to charge fees in respect of Private Hire Operator Licences.  The Council must set the fees for these licences on the basis that it only recovers costs which it is entitled statutorily to recover.

 

In respect of operator licences, the Act stated that the fee for an operator's licence shall not exceed £25 or such other sum as the Council may from time to time determine, but was originally set in 1976 and should therefore reflect the current costs.

 

Case Law had established that when the Council made a surplus in respect of licence fees it should give account for that the next time that the fees were set; and if it incurs a deficit it may also take that into account.  The calculation in respect of each type of licence issued by the Council should be kept separate.

 

When the Council proposed to set new fees for operators’ licences it was required by Section 70 of the 1976 Act to publish notice of the proposed variation in a local newspaper stating that objections may be made within a period of not less than 28 days.  If objections were received and not withdrawn the Council must consider them and set a further date on which the variation shall come into force with or without modifications.

 

Although the legislation stated that an operator's licence should be granted for five years there may be circumstances in which it may be appropriate to grant a licence for a shorter period.  Whilst each case would be dealt with on its merits, proposed fees for both a one year licence and a five year licence had been calculated for approval.

 

The fee income for the financial year 2014/15 had been reviewed and the fees calculated using a software toolkit developed by the Wales Licensing Expert Panel.

All general expenditure across the Licensing Section had been applied to generate an hourly rate for each member of staff.  The cost of administration of the licence was based on these hourly rates and time recording exercises.

 

The table of existing and proposed fees was attached to the report at Appendix A.

The calculation showed a slight reduction in the fee accounting for £246 surplus in relation to Private Hire Operator Licenses; it was proposed therefore that the fees set out in Appendix A be approved.

 

Following presentation of the report a Member queried the proposed fee for the grant of a five year Private Hire Operator Licence, as it was lower than the proposed fee for the renewal of a five year Private Hire Operator Licence.  The Committee was advised that the figures for the proposed fees were correct and had been calculated using the toolkit developed by the Wales Licensing Expert Panel. Furthermore, the toolkit was the most robust method of setting fees and was potentially being rolled out to Local Authorities in England.  The Chairman asked whether a Private Hire Operator, at the expiration of their licence, could apply for the grant of a five year Private Hire Operator Licence, rather than a five year renewal licence and it was confirmed that Operators would be able to do this.

 

Following consideration of the report, the Committee

 

RESOLVED – T H A T the proposed licence fees as outlined in Appendix A to the report be approved and that officers be instructed to publish a notice of the proposed fees in a local newspaper.

 

Reason for the decision

 

To ensure a reasonable proportion of the Council's costs are recovered in relation to Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Licensing and that the costs of such licensing does not present a burden on local taxpayers.

 

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