STATUTORY LICENSING COMMITTEE
Minutes of a meeting held on 6th December, 2016 immediately following the Public Protection Licensing Committee meeting.
Present: Councillor A.G. Powell (Chairman); Councillor H.C. Hamilton (Vice-Chairman); Councillors G.A. Cox, Mrs. P. Drake, Mrs. V.M. Hartrey, Mrs. A. Moore, N. Moore, Mrs. A.J. Preston, Ms. R.F. Probert, J.W. Thomas, R.P. Thomas and C.J. Williams.
571 APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –
These were received from Councillors E. Hacker, K. Hatton and Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson.
572 MINUTES –
RESOLVED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 26th July, 2016 be approved as a correct record.
573 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –
No declarations were received.
574 LICENSING ACT 2003: COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT (DEH) –
The Licensing Team Manager presented this further report to Committee on community involvement in the Licensing process.
At its meeting on 26th July, 2016, the Committee had considered the Council’s draft Statement of Licensing Policy, and as part of the process discussed greater community participation in the licensing process, and resolved that a report be drafted in relation to how the Licensing Authority could encourage greater community involvement in the Licensing process, taking into account the approach of other Local Authorities, and the report be brought to a future meeting of the Statutory Licensing Committee for consideration.
The Licensing Team Manager addressed key points within the report, following a short informal survey of other Local Authorities and a review of recent case law, an e‑mail survey of Welsh Authority contacts on the Licensing Technical Panel, asking for information on their consultation process. Responses were received from: Caerphilly, Rhondda Cynon Taff, Conwy, Gwynedd, Carmarthenshire, Merthyr, Wrexham, Torfaen and Ceredigion.
The Licensing Act 2003 (Premises Licences and Club Premises Certificates) Regulations 2005 set out the prescribed methods of advertising certain applications and those applications which required giving public notice. These included applications for new premises licences or club premises certificates or major variations to this type of venue. When undertaking licensing functions, the Licensing Authority must have regard to the Guidance issued by the Home Office under Section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003. It was this Guidance which highlighted at Section 1.5 that the Licensing Act 2003 supported a number of key aims and purposes in addition to the four licensing objectives, one of which was that the Act provided local residents with the opportunity to have their say regarding licensing decisions that may affect them. The Statutory Guidance did not provide a framework for any additional consultation process other than that laid down in the Licensing Act 2003.
The legislation placed the onus on the person making the application, and not the Local Authority, to advertise the application. The applicant must advertise the application on site and in a local newspaper. Having assessed the applications received, the average number of applications requiring public notice was 12. This included applications for new premises licences and variations to existing licences.
The legislation was amended by The Licensing Act 2003 (Premises Licences and Club Premises Certificates) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 to require the Local Authority to publish applications for new premises licences / club premises certificates or major variations to these on its website.
When considering how to increase community engagement in the licensing process, the Authority needed to remain within the provisions set out within the Licensing Act 2003 and regulations. There was case law and guidance relating to avoiding any additional actions which may be ultra vires, which included the question of whether nearby residents should be informed of applications received. This was demonstrated in the Court of Appeal Judgement, Corporation of the Hall of Arts and Sciences v The Albert Court Residents’ Association  EWCA Civ 430. The background to this case was that Westminster Council had adopted the practice of notifying residents of applications received under the Licensing Act 2003. On one occasion, when an application was received to vary the licence for the Albert Hall in London, one group of residents did not receive a notification. The residents felt that they would be affected by the application and submitted representations, but these were received after the closing date specified by the Regulations. That being the case, the representations were deemed invalid and Westminster Council granted the application. The Judgement outlined that neither the 2003 Act nor the Licensing Act (Hearings) Regulations 2005 impose any duty on a Licensing Authority to advertise such an application or to take any steps to notify anyone affected by it that it has been made, and that the sole duty to advertise and to give notice of the application was placed on the person making the application (in this case the Albert Hall). In any case, the term "immediate vicinity" as a concept relating to the potential impact of licensing premises was removed from the Licensing Act 2003 by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2012, and the practice of a Local Authority writing to only a chosen selection of residents was therefore no longer applicable.
When the Home Office consulted on issuing guidance for proposed locally set fees for the Licensing Act 2003, it raised the concept of “gold-plating” which meant activities that go beyond the duties of the 2003 Act and are not justified by proportionality. The consultation document outlined that particular activities had been suggested where there may be a risk of excessive costs or “gold plating” and this included the example of notification of residents individually of licensing applications in their area by letter given that the existing duties to advertise on the premises and on the Licensing Authorities’ website enabled the involvement of local residents, and that more cost efficient methods of further engagement may be available.
The proposal to introduce locally set fees did not proceed, and therefore the Authority continued to receive a fixed fee for premises licence and club premises certificate applications, irrespective of the complexity or contentious nature of the application.
The Licensing Act 2003 had now been in operation for ten years and the use of social media had evolved during that time. This provided an opportunity for the Licensing Authority to put information into the public domain about the licensing process rather than individual applications. This could take the form of how to report complaints together with links to the Vale of Glamorgan website to access information. In addition, it was timely to advise local residents that other agencies were involved in the licensing consultation process and could lead to representations on a range of issues from crime and disorder to noise nuisance and underage sales.
This social media drive approach would enable the Authority to meet its obligations under the Act and major applications would continue to be accessible through public notices on site and in a local newspaper and via the Council's website. The use of targeted social media campaigns to bolster community awareness of the Licensing process would complement the existing processes where Local Members and Town Councils were made aware of applications in their local area.
In response to the Licensing Team Manager’s report, a Member asked if licensing applications were being advertised more clearly on the Council’s website home page. The Member also suggested that if social media was the only option going forward, a further report on how and when the Council was actually going to use social media channels needed to be presented.
The Member also asked if the Council would be able to incorporate the use of the “In Your Neighbourhood” postcode search function on the home page and also whether there was an option to tie in with the ValeConnect e-mail subscription facility currently operated. In the suggested report there needed to be clear timescales of when and for how long the Council incorporate each of the social media channels.
The Member also raised the question of how the Council measured its success and stated that the feedback needed to come from the public.
In response, the Licensing Team Manager explained that there were discussions currently taking place with the Communications Team about advertising licensing applications more clearly on the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s home page and that the use of social media posts would be more of a signpost rather than full details with regards to a licence application. The social media posts would be a reference to the full licence applications’ webpage on the Council’s website. The officer also pointed out that social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook could be measured via the Council’s Communications Team for the amount of hits received on those particular networks from members of the public. The Council could therefore measure who had interacted with the page and how often.
The Operational Manager for Neighbourhood Services further added that it was important to recognise that social media posts allowed the Council the opportunity to give a wider message within a small specific post, tying in to what the Licensing Team Manager was talking about when she referred to the posts referring members of the public to the licensing application web page.
The Chairman reminded the Committee that as a Council we had looked at our legislation and discovered what we had to do and then what we can do having looked at our resources. The Chairman agreed that new licensing applications flagged up on the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s home page would be an excellent method for communicating to the public and this would also encourage less paper use to make the Council more sustainable. The Chairman also stressed that if the Council wanted to advertise new applications to the best of its ability and also save costs at the same time, then social media discussions were crucial with the Communications Team to inform how the Council could make this happen as soon as possible.
A Member then added that there was still a responsibility of an individual local Member to advertise to local residents via leaflets and discussion in person.
The Chairman agreed that there was a responsibility on the local Member and also the Town and Community Councils, but this was in collaboration with the web page and other electronic sources showing the public how to apply would mean the Council had even greater success.
Referring back to the suggested report for social media use, the Member stressed that the Council must have a specific method of how it would communicate information on planning applications. A second Member also expanded on this point by saying that there needed to be a paper document explaining the process and they were surprised the discussions had not already happened with the Communications Team due to the strong Member feelings when talking about this topic at the previous meeting. The Members requested a report from the officers in collaboration with the Communications Team to look at this issue in the future.
The Operational Manager for Neighbourhood Services stated that he would be happy to bring plans back to the Committee on the social media engagement process in the future and would also incorporate within the plans interaction with Town and Community Councils and specific use of the Council’s web pages.
A Member wished to inform the Committee that there was a published Barnardos film helping to train taxi drivers in recognising young and vulnerable people who were subject to exploitation and would therefore come under safeguarding within the community. The Chairman agreed the film would be useful to see and suggested that the Committee view the film at the end of the next Committee meeting.
Having considered the report, the Committee
(1) T H A T social media campaigns be undertaken to make the public aware of the licensing process, how to access information and how to raise concerns regarding licensed premises.
(2) T H A T the current practice of notifying Ward Members and Community Councils of applications received continue.
(3) T H A T a report on the use of social media and community engagement be submitted to the Committee at the next available opportunity.
Reasons for decisions
(1&2) To ensure that the Licensing Authority acts within the powers available to it under the Licensing Act 2003 and complies with relevant government guidance on processing applications and recovery of costs.
(3) To advise the Committee of progress made in relation to using social medial as part of public engagement as per the Licensing Act 2003.