Venue: Norfolk Room, The Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Dereham
Contact: Committee Services Tel: f01362 656870
To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 27 May 2009.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 27 May 2009 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
Apologies (Agenda Item 2)
To receive apologies for absence.
An apology for absence was received from Mr D. Myers.
To receive the report of the Director – Community Services.
The Principal Licensing Officer (PLO) presented the report. She explained that in order for Breckland Council, acting as the Licensing Authority, to discharge its statutory duties under the Gambling Act 2005, it was necessary for the Council to review its policy and Statement of Principles every three years.
By the end of the recent three month consultation period (prior to its formal review), the Licensing team had received one comment, which was appended to the report at Annex C.
The Licensing Committee were therefore asked to consider and approve the proposed revised Gambling Statement of Principles, with a view to presenting this to Full Council on 12 November. It would then be published, and come into effect, by 3 January 2010.
The PLO explained that the Gambling law had changed quite substantially since the original Act in 2007. Essentially it had become more user-friendly, with clearer and more defined parameters. Rather than go through the whole of the revised policy, she highlighted some key points and then answered questions from Members.
Attention was drawn to the central paragraph on page 15 of the report, concerning “Interested Parties”. Two points were made:
1) That it was now clear that Members should not sit on any Licensing Panel which met to discuss an application within their own Ward.
With respect to Members’ participation whilst representing at ‘County’, rather than ‘District’, level, it was agreed that this would be down to individual judgement on each occasion.
2) With each case to be “decided upon its merits”, Breckland Council would not apply a rigid rule to its decision making. Instead, each application would be considered afresh and not compared to any others.
Small Society Lotteries
There followed some discussion about the section on small society lotteries (page 35 of the report). Specifically, the statement that “For new applicants, we shall require the promoter of the lottery to produce a ‘basic’ Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) disclosure…”.
The PLO confirmed that each applicant would need to pay the £36 fee involved. She also said that meetings with local colleagues meant that they were working towards a county-wide approach for this requirement (central guidance meant that it was increasingly being applied nationally). She reiterated that the basic CRB check would only apply to any future applications, not retrospectively. The Licensing Team planned to be in touch with all Village Halls and appropriate organisations in order to publicise this requirement.
There was some unease amongst Members about the need for even more paperwork and expense for small societies, who, by definition, often had limited time, money and volunteers to deal with such matters, and who were usually holding small lotteries to raise money for charitable work.
It was acknowledged that there was a balance to be struck between the extra burdens such CRB checks would impose, against the need to protect the public from potentially being conned out of money. The PLO confirmed that such checks were not statutory, but instead formed part of ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
Business Improvement Programme (Agenda Item 7)
The Chairman proposed, and it was agreed, that this item should be taken at the end of the meeting and be treated as “Below the Line”.
Minor Variations - Roadshows (Agenda Item 8)
The Principal Licensing Officer (PLO) informed Members that there had been some changes to the Licensing Act with effect from 29 July 2009.
These involved the insertion of Sections 41A to 41C which related to Minor Variations, allowing for small changes to be made to an existing Premises Licence or Club Premises Certificate. She read through the changes, promising to send a more detailed email to all Members after the meeting.
The overall aim of the changes was to assist people by making the process easier (and cheaper), since many would no longer have to go through the full variation process each time a small change was requested.
She confirmed that the licensing team would be writing to all relevant authorities, including to all Ward Members (as well as placing a notice in the Members’ Bulletin), various premises and organisations etc. The Licensing team would also be holding Roadshows during the first fortnight in November, offering advice and guidance to as many people as possible. Finally, the team would also prepare “Model Hire Agreements” which could be used as templates for those applying to hire out village halls etc.
Amongst other things, the changes meant the removal of the requirement for a Designated Premises Supervisor and Personal Licence at Community Premises. Thus, once an application had been made and the paperwork completed, applicants could then hold as many events as they wanted without having to nominate individuals for each occasion. That said, the Minor Variations would not apply retrospectively, nor were they automatic: in order to benefit from them, licensees would need to “disapply” from their current licence, and then submit a new application.
Members' Licensing Manual / Other Licensing News (Agenda Item 9)
The PLO told Members that she had started work on a Members’ Licensing Manual. She aimed to present this to Full Council in December and therefore a draft would be circulated in advance to members of the Licensing Committee for comments.
Other Licensing Business raised by the PLO included:
(a) Licensing Sub-Committee : 2 September 2009 - Quick Stop (Minute No. 4/09)
She told Members that the owner of the Quick Stop shop had made an Appeal against the decision to suspend the sale of alcohol from the premises for three months. A Hearing would take place at Swaffham Magistrates’ Court on 7 December. She, plus the solicitor and other key witnesses, would be called to attend. Members would be welcome to attend as observers if they wanted – and indeed as there were relatively few Appeals, they might find the process interesting. She agreed to circulate details to all Members.
(b) Licensing Training : 8 December 2009
She took the opportunity to remind Members that there would be a day’s training on Tuesday, 8 December. This would include the Licensing and Gambling Acts, plus taxis and natural justice. A full programme would follow direct from the Member Development Officers nearer the time.
The Chairman said that he would draw Member Development Officers’ attention to the fact that most Members preferred to be offered half day training sessions, which would have less impact on their other commitments. Also, a detailed programme, with time slots, would be appreciated, so that if they were unable to make the whole day, Members could at least try to attend key sessions.
Exclusion of the Press and Public
RESOLVED that under Section 100(a)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 7 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Act.”
Business Improvement Programme
After introducing himself and explaining his role in terms of looking to achieve the best value from teams across the Council, the Senior Business Improvement Officer (SBIO) presented this item.
He and a colleague had spent 6-8 weeks working alongside the Licensing team this summer, with a view to getting a clear understanding of the breadth and depth of licensing work, as well as an ‘on the ground’ perspective of how the work was actually being delivered.
During this period they had identified key areas where improvements could be made and implemented.
(1) Front Office
This part of the service could be optimised by better use of local Customer Care Centres in the five main towns, as well as via the Council’s main contact centre and on the website itself.
(2) Back Office
Behind the scenes there was room for much improvement in processing, where currently there was some duplication (even triplication) of paperwork across the board.
Additionally, as there were only four licensing officers to cover the whole of Breckland, a clear priority would be to get at least two of them out doing enforcement work for at least 80% of the time. Currently this was completely unrealistic.
(3) IT System
Key to achieving progress in both the above areas, was to develop an IT platform which would be tailored to specific licensing needs.
The SBIO informed Members that a tender had already been sent out for a designated system, which would be rich in functionality. He explained that many systems aimed to meet up to about 40 specific requirements. However, the Licensing team were looking for nearer 280. The strongest candidate was a system which would meet about 90% of these, enabling huge efficiencies in such areas as the automation of systems (reminders/renewals etc).
Other benefits from such a package would include:
o more mobile working;
o on-line self service in some areas;
o on-line licensing applications.
Time saved once these improvements were up and running would have an enormous impact on the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the team.
Alongside a new IT package, it was proposed that there would be a review of the structure of the team, including the current temporary posts.
These changes, which would achieve some budget savings, had already been approved by the Corporate Management Team and were due to be implemented in the New Year.
(4) Partnership Working / Income Generation
The SBIO explained that the Licensing team should work under a balanced budget but that this was not currently the case. There was, therefore, a real need to be proactive in this area.
The PLO then outlined a scheme which she was currently actively investigating. There was a new national qualification called a “Certificate in Alcohol Awareness”. This was aimed specifically at 13-16 year olds, focussing on drug and alcohol awareness in the community, but it was also open to other candidates such as Local Government Officers and Councillors. The PLO had managed to get Breckland Council registered ... view the full minutes text for item 14.