The Licensing Manager presented his report to the committee. It 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.
The Licensing Manager highlighted that the licensing team covered many things across East Devon. This included:
· All alcohol related matters.
· Taxis and private hire work.
· Gambling (excluding online betting).
· Street trading.
· Charitable collections.
· Cemeteries and burial bookings.
It was noted that the district received more Temporary Event Notices (TENs) than other Devon authorities due to higher numbers of outdoor events happening in East Devon and during summer months work increased considerably for the licensing team with officers conducting compliance visits to many outdoor festivals including Sidmouth Folk week, Beautiful Days and other large outdoor events.
The licensing team also continued to offer mediation meetings when representations had been made against new licensing applications to ascertain whether objectors and applicants could reach an agreed position. Mediation was often successful and reduced the number of contested hearings that need to go before a licensing sub-committee.
Members noted that changes at the Gambling Commission had seen the withdrawal of the Commission regional officer from undertaking compliance work with officers in the region. This was a positive working arrangement and although licensing officers are suitably trained and knowledgeable regarding gambling legislation, the opportunity for staff from both organisations to undertake joint inspections had been effective in maintaining compliance. It was noted that East Devon had completed a premises inspection rate of 50 to 74% which was above average compared to other licensing authorities. Some of whom had not completed any inspections at all.
A Licensing & Enforcement Sub Committee meeting was held on 18 September to consider a new private hire vehicle application for a zero emission vehicle. Being a hybrid electric vehicle without an internal combustion engine it fell outside the criteria set in the Taxi Policy for the minimum of 1000cc engine. A separate report was made to the Committee to allow the current policy to be revised to allow the licensing of electric vehicles without a combustion engine.
It was noted that the number of taxi/private hire drivers was reducing year on year. There is a requirement for licensed drivers to maintain a higher level of medical fitness than general drivers undergoing medical assessments upon first being licensed and upon key anniversary ages to ensure they are fit to carry the public. Activities and strategies were being considered that can support the continued wellbeing of licensed taxi drivers and engagement by the Licensing Manager with management of Leisure East Devon has identified an opportunity to arrange corporate membership at gyms across the district for licensed drivers.
Officers also met with the Council’s Public Health Project Officer to consider other options such as using One Small Step and promoting the Stoptober Campaign that encourages smokers to quit.
It was noted that the taxi trade in East Devon should be encouraged to provide more wheelchair accessible vehicles. Howwever, the cost of these vehicles was often a barrier to more being purchased.
The Licensing Manager reported that the Sidmouth Folk Festival event took place between 2nd and 9th August and all 60 sea front pitches managed by the licensing team were allocated under the process that had operated since 2008. Officer’s work extended hours with a presence in the town from 7am over all eight days. It was noted that the council’s move to offices in Honiton had increased the time officers were engaged in the event. The time spent by the licensing team each year from March through to August and the overall commitment involving members of the team is considerable as officers are engaged in trader applications from March through to summer.
This level of involvement through to attending the event impacts upon other areas of licensing work and it was considered timely to consider the future approach given increasing demands on the licensing team by reviewing whether the current process remained cost effective and the best use of council resources. An option that was at an early stage would be for the organisers of Sidmouth Folk week to have responsibility for trading on The Esplanade.
1. that the Licensing Manager’s update report be noted.
2. that the Licensing Manager prepare a report considering short term incentives in support of reducing emissions within the district for licensed hackney carriage and private hire vehicles for the next meeting.