Agenda item

Next Meeting (Agenda item 10)

To note the date of the next Committee of the Licensing Authority meeting on Wednesday, 20 October 2021 at 10am.


Before closing the meeting, the Chairman updated Members on the work that the Licensing Team had been doing over the last 18 months.


All had been working from home and the logistics of how licenses would be renewed etc had been sorted, the post had to be scanned and emailed and visits to the office were limited only to print badges, plates and licences and reminder letters. 


Using Zoom and WhatsApp meant that the Team could still inspect vehicles and check identification documents and offer virtual assistance for filling in forms. At first, drivers had problems getting an appointment for their medical examinations and a six-month declaration had been offered where there had been no significant change in medical circumstances. Drivers had been offered a service to access Group 2 Medicals with a fully qualified medical professional not only during working hours but in the evenings and weekends.


Taxi testing garages had remained open during the Covid period and compliance tests had remained in place as vehicles had to remain road worthy for the safety of the public.  Driving tests had been suspended by Government during the lockdowns so to enable taxi drivers to take their tests as soon as everything re-opened a new provider had been added to the list. 


The Team had issued guidance of the types of screen dividers that could be used in taxis as well as guidance on covid safety measures for cleaning inside their vehicles and using masks.  Support and advice had been provided by the Government to the licence trade and the Team had worked with other departments within the Council to help support businesses. 


Multi Agency working had continued throughout the pandemic and the Team had worked with partner agencies throughout the different levels of restrictions looking at where additional resources for compliance was needed. The Government made many changes to legislation to assist businesses such as pavement licenses for table and chairs to be located outside premises to serve food and drink.  The Team had been there every step of the way advising and assisting those businesses trying to find various ways of continuing to trade. 


Unsurprisingly, the number of temporary events had dropped dramatically during the pandemic but had returned to normal numbers since May 2021 including weddings, private parties and village fetes. The Team had continued to forward event notifications to the Safety Advisory Group and many events would resume this year even though numbers had been restricted.


In the last 18 months 25 premises licences applications had been dealt with and 24 had been granted. This had proved that there was continued belief in new business start-ups despite the pandemic.  15 premises licences had been surrendered, 3 had new licences but others had closed completely. Scrap metal, gambling and animal licensing had continued, and a review of the whole Environmental Health department would be undertaken by the end of the year.


The Team had been getting used to a new IT system and had to migrate existing data for over 4,000 licences.  This work continued with additional resource of one agency staff member dedicated solely to this migration work.


On reflection, it had been a very busy time for the Licensing Team, no less busy than pre-pandemic even though the focus had definitely been different.


The Chairman asked the Licensing Team Leader to pass on her thanks from the Committee to the Officers concerned.


The Licensing Team Leader thanked the Chairman for her kind words.


Members were then provided with the following updates the first of which was on pavement licenses which was something that had been introduced prior to the pandemic for cafes etc, not for shops. The Government was looking to extend this as an amendment to the Business and Planning Act and it was hoped that these new regulations would come into effect ahead of the parliamentary summer recess.  The extension if approved would be from September 2021 to September 2022.  Further details on this matter were awaited.


The second update was in respect of the Animal Welfare Bill from DEFRA which was known as the Kept Animals Bill. This was to protect pets, livestock and wild animals and 5 key areas were being looked at including puppy smuggling, live exports, banning on keeping primates as pets, livestock worrying (giving new powers to the Police to provide greater protection to livestock from dangerous and out of control dogs) and Zoos, the Zoo Licensing Act would be improved in respect of conservation.


The Chairman hoped that the Animal Welfare Bill would get passed and with these new powers coming forward she hoped that with the various cases of cruelty that the courts were robust in their sentencing of animal cruelty.


Councillor Bambridge underlined what had been said earlier about James Button and felt that it was very pleasing to have him back on the Breckland radar and he was sure he would be very useful to the Licensing Team and Members of the Committee.  He hoped that everyone would attend the forthcoming training sessions to keep up to date with Licensing matters.


The Chairman thanked him for his input and as far as the training was concerned, although not mandatory, she would make it very clear that if Members did not attend, they would not be eligible to sit on any Licensing Panel meetings.


The Vice-Chairman echoed the above comments as Members needed to be well informed in respect of the rules and regulations.


The Licensing Team Leader thanked the Chairman for all her support during the Covid period, particularly with all her assistance in advocating the new Animal Welfare Officer post, it had been much appreciated.


The arrangements for the next meeting on Wednesday, 20 October immediately following the Licensing Committee meeting in the Anglia Room were noted.