The Chair welcomed the Licensing Manager and congratulated Mrs Norsworthy on her recent appointment to the post.
The Licensing Manager presented the report which provided an update on the activities of the Licensing Service under the Licensing Act 2003, Gambling Act 2005, Taxi legislation and General Licensing including Street Trading and Pavement Licenses during the period July to November. The following points were highlighted:
· The Government had announced plans to extend the automatic off-sales entitlement provision until March 2025.
· The ‘fast-track’ pavement licence provisions were also extended to the end of September 2024.
· Under the Licensing Act, 14 premises licence applications were being processed at the time of writing the report, the number of Temporary Event Notices received remained at a high level and the Licensing Team continued to liaise actively with event organisers through the East Devon Safety Advisory Group.
· One premises licence had been granted after a Sub Committee hearing during the period covered by the report.
· Regarding work under the Gambling Act, the Government had published its white paper ‘Gambling Reform for the Digital Age’. As agreed, responses to several consultations had been submitted.
· With regard to taxi work, there was a small variation in the figures since July, as set out at section 3.1.1 of the report. Officers continued to use the NR3 Register of Revocations, Refusals and Suspensions to check all new applications and applications for renewal. Officers have now also uploaded details of those individuals who have had a licence revoked, refused or suspended in East Devon.
· Six significant complaints had been investigated during the period covered by the report.
· Officers had inspected 25 vehicles by prior arrangement and undertaken unannounced checks at taxi ranks on four occasions since the last meeting.
· Two Licensing & Enforcement Sub Committee hearings related to taxi matters had been held during the period July to November.
· The draft policy containing changes to update the policy in line with the Taxi and Private Hire Statutory Standard was approved by full Council at its meeting on 18 October 2023. Changes were communicated to the taxi trade via a newsletter and at a recent taxi trade meeting.
· Officers remained in regular contact with the East Devon Taxi Association and have committed to regularly attending Association meetings.
· It was noted that the need to consider an increase to the Taxi Fare table may come forward in the near future, due to the on-going high cost of living.
· With regard to street trading consents, the current street trading regime and re-introduction of application fees had been adopted by the Council in May 2023. The Licensing Team recorded its thanks for the support of the Vice-Chair and Cranbrook Town Council in assisting traders to find an alternative trading location during development work in Cranbrook.
· It was noted that there remain two separate regimes under which businesses may apply for a pavement licence, with Officers keeping developments in this area under review.
· Councillor training had been provided by the Institute of Licensing following the election in May, with additional in-house training for Councillors not able to attend provided by the previous interim Licensing Manager.
Discussion and questions from Members included the following points:
· It was noted that there is very little difference between the two regimes for pavement licences. The ‘fast-track’ regime introduced for District Councils to administer during the pandemic is faster than the process administered by Devon County Council.
· Spot checks on taxi ranks included Sidmouth. It had been noted that the public were using the Sidmouth taxi rank for parking and Civil Enforcement had been made aware of this. There were no other issues to note.
· Additional door signage for Hackney Carriages could be considered by the Licensing Team to improve visibility and information for the public.
· With regard to Temporary Event Notices, the fees are set by Government and have not increased since 2005.
Regarding the current level of fees for Temporary Event Notices, it was agreed to write to the MPs, with a copy to the relevant Government department, to bring attention to the lack of an increase since 2005.
The Committee agreed to note the report.