Venue: Norfolk Room, The Conference Suite, Elizabeth House, Dereham
Contact: Committee Services Tel: f01362 656870
To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on 13 February 2008.
The Minutes of the meeting held on 13 February 2008 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 Mrs L. Turner.
Declaration of Interest (Agenda Item 4)
Members are asked at this stage to declare any interests that they may have in any of the following items on the agenda.
The Members’ Code of Conduct introduced on 31 January 2002 requires that declarations include the nature of the interest and whether it is a personal or prejudicial interest.
Councillor J. Rogers expressed an interest regarding Agenda Item 6 owing to his membership on the Fire and Community Safety Committee at City Hall.
Fire Service Policy on Licensing Inspections (Agenda Item 6)
The Chairman welcomed Mr Chris Soames, Fire Safety Adviser for Breckland (Norfolk Fire Service), who had been invited to give an update and to hear the Committee’s concerns about the local impact of recent changes in legislation.
The Chairman then gave some background to the request, explaining that in the past the Norfolk Fire Service had been responsible for visiting licensed properties to give advice and guidance about fire safety issues and areas of concern. Such visits had been extremely helpful and constructive throughout the District, but particularly for the smaller premises, such as Village Halls.
Legislation changes meant that responsibility for fire safety inspections now fell directly on the licencees or property owners. Many had never seen the legislation and were therefore unaware of some of the less obvious hazards. Many also struggled to find people willing to take on the role of Fire Safety Officer now that the previous levels of expert support had been withdrawn. Another difficulty was that the smaller premises frequently had less money available to pay for such specialist advice.
Mr Soames explained that his input into the actual licensing application process was minimal: he, or a colleague, would visit the premises concerned and then acknowledge this, by letter to the applicant and by e-mail to the Licensing team at Breckland. In reality therefore, it was merely an acknowledgement of the Fire Service having seen the application.
With respect to the advice the Fire Service gave, he explained that with effect from 1st October 2006 there had been dramatic changes to the Fire Legislation (71 individual pieces of legislation had been reduced to 1). From the Fire Service’s perspective this obviously made life much simpler. However, the onus of responsibility had therefore dramatically shifted to the owner/occupiers of the buildings, whether they were the license-holder, the tenant, the owner or a Managing Director etc. Additionally, the new legislation covered every form of premises other than private dwellings – i.e. including village post offices, corner shops, B&Bs, etc, as well as the more obvious range of licensed premises.
Realising the impact of this change, and the fact that many people did not have the necessary levels of expertise in this field, he and his colleagues had frequently raised concerns at a local level. Over the past few years they had been told that their role was to “enforce the legislation” and not to give advice. He believed that this approach had been nationally applied.
However, following a recent change of senior staff, he was now able to reassure Committee Members that locally they were being permitted to revert to their former role: if they were approached for advice they would be happy to provide it.
People were therefore able to book an audit. They would be given a blank fire assessment sheet, together with the appropriate Guide(s). He explained that the Fire Service had produced a selection of Guides, covering different needs (e.g. for Open Air events; for large premises, or for ... view the full minutes text for item 4.
To receive an update from the Licensing Team Leader.
The Principal Licensing Officer explained that the major restructuring in Environmental Health had now concluded. The Licensing Team was supported by members of a Business Support Team, whose work ranged across the whole Department.
She extended a warm invitation to Members to visit the department, perhaps by spending a day with the team. She was anxious for the team to be more accessible and to help Members and colleagues understand the wide-ranging nature of the work covered (which included issues arising from the Licensing Act; Gambling; Taxi Licenses; Street Trading and Charitable collections, etc).
She then gave an update of various key changes the team would be facing over the coming months:
o Amendments to the Licensing Act were due in July 2009. These would include minor variations. For example, it would remove the requirement for a Designated Premises Supervisor to be stipulated on the licence for community premises (such as Village Halls). This sort of amendment would need to be publicised across the district by the Licensing Team.
o Amendments to the Crime Bill would impose up to nine new mandatory conditions on every existing and new licence applied for. Various conditions would apply (e.g. to promotions such as ‘all you can drink for £10.00’), and it would be for the Licensing team to inspect and enforce, as appropriate. They would have to do this without receiving any increase in budget. The Principal Licensing Officer explained that there was ongoing consultation in this area and she would be happy to circulate information to all Members via the Bulletin in due course.
o Gambling Policy: The Principal Licensing Officer explained that the Gambling Policy was also under review. Guidance had been recently received and she promised to pass this to Committee Members over the following few weeks. The proposals would then go for public consultation, with the aim of being in place by the end of the year.
o Nightsafe: Norfolk Constabulary had also undergone restructuring recently. There would be one licence team for the county, based in Norwich, with a satellite office in King’s Lynn. The Principal Licensing Officer was going to Chair the Norfolk Licensing Forum for the coming year. She would meet the Chief Inspector soon, for discussions to enable a targeted high-risk multi-agency approach across the District. She would keep the Committee informed of progress.
o EU Service Directive: This would come into force on 27 December 2009, by which time all licence applications must be able to be made, and payment received, on-line. A project group was being set up under the Business Improvement Team to focus on this work, not least as there was some overlap with other departments who also needed to upgrade their electronic systems in order to comply with legislation. There was some discussion about difficulties with electronic signatures. The Principal Licensing Officer confirmed that work was still underway on this, since security was essential if these were to be accepted as ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Meet the Licensing Team
To meet the post-restructuring Licensing Team.
The Principal Licensing Officer then introduced the rest of her team, giving a brief description of the key areas they covered.
The Principal Licensing Officer then reiterated her invitation to Members, saying that they would be very welcome to email or visit the Department at any time, whether for a specific inquiry or to see how the team worked.
The Chairman concluded the meeting by giving warm thanks to the Principal Licensing Officer for her invitation and for all her hard work over the past several months. He acknowledged that the recent restructuring would have been a stressful time for everyone involved, and thanked the whole team for their efforts.
He also thanked Committee Members and said that it was important that they should continue to meet whenever required, particularly if there were changes to licensing policy.
RESOLVED that the Principal Licensing Officer would circulate further details on the new Gambling Policy to all Committee Members in due course.
The Chairman asked Members to contact him direct if they had any comments or issues they would like to raise on these matters. He would then decide whether or not there should be a specific meeting to discuss this amended legislation in due course.