Licensing Committee (ceased to operate 10/04/2017) Minutes

Wednesday, 15th July, 2015
10:00 am
The Auditorium, Stockton Baptist tabernacle, The Square, Stockton on Tees, TS18 1TE
Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

Attendance Details

Cllr Paul Kirton(Chairman), Cllr Mrs Kathryn Nelson(Vice-Chairman), Cllr Derrick Brown, Cllr Chris Clough, Cllr Philip Dennis, Cllr Eileen Johnson, Cllr Mrs Jean O'Donnell, Cllr Stephen Parry, Cllr Maurice Perry, Cllr Julia Whitehill
Jimmy Jones, Peter Kelly, Lorraine Wilford (PH), Jonathan Nertney, Margaret Waggott, Sarah Whaley (LD)
In Attendance:
Approximately 50 Members of the Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Taxi Trade were in attendance.
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Evaline Cunningham, Cllr Bill Woodhead
Item Description Decision

1. Members comments be received on the responses to the consultation and on other issues that had emerged since then.

2. the draft policy be revised in line with Member’s comments and then referred to Cabinet and Council for approval.

1. Members comments on the content of this report and on the revisions to the Policy Statement be noted.

2. Trading Standards & Licensing carry out consultation on the draft revised Policy Statement with relevant stakeholders and report back to the Licensing Committee.

1. Members comments and views be noted.

2. The Head of Service for Trading Standards & Licensing carry out consultation on the draft policy document with relevant stakeholders and report back to the Licensing Committee.
10.00 -


The Evacuation Procedure was noted.
There were no declarations of interest.
Consideration was given to a report on the Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Licensing Policy Review.

The purpose of the report was to seek Member’s views on the comments received from the trade and other interested parties following consultation on the proposed draft Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Licensing Policy and on other issues that had emerged since then, with a view to producing a final document for approval by Cabinet and Council.

At the meeting held on 17 October 2014, Members agreed a draft revised Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Licensing Policy document and that consultation be carried out with the trade and other interested parties on the proposed policy changes. A copy of the consultation document and current revised draft policy document was attached to the main report

The consultation had been completed and a document compiling all of the comments received was attached to the report.

Member’s comments were invited on those comments and on any other aspects of the Policy.

The main changes proposed at the last meeting as outlined in the consultation document, together with comments from the trade and officers where appropriate, were as follows:-

a. Currently the Policy was reviewed every 3 years. It was now proposed that this was changed to every 5 years, to bring it in line with other major policy reviews, such as the Licensing Act Policy Statement.

All respondents to the consultation, bar one, agreed with the proposal.
Members and the Trade which were present at the meeting agreed that the Private Hire & Hackney Carriage Licensing Policy be reviewed every five years.

Do you agree with the proposal to prevent the smoking of e-cigarettes in licensed vehicles and on operator’s premises open to the public?

b. There was a new addition to the Policy in line with the Council’s own No Smoking Policy concerning e-cigarettes. At the present time e-cigarettes were unlicensed and unregulated. Whilst not all contained nicotine, the vapour could be an annoyance or health risk and the use of e-cigarettes helped create an impression that it was acceptable to smoke, particularly to young children. Whilst the tobacco substitute benefits of e-cigarettes were acknowledged, the public perception of perceived smoking, smoking tolerance and adverse imagery outweighed the as yet to be established benefits of smoking e-cigarettes. It was recommended that e-cigarettes should not be smoked in any licensed vehicle or operator’s premise which was open to the public.

Respondents to the consultation were broadly in favour of the proposal. If the proposal was carried forward, officers suggested that the Council provided adhesive stickers/signs to be displayed within the licensed vehicle to advise the public of this policy.

Members of the Taxi Trade were present and were given the opportunity to make representation. Their comments were summarised as follows:

- A spokesperson for the Hackney Carriage trade stated that as far as he was concerned they were happy to agree to the proposal however there was some diversity amongst the drivers. A Private Hire driver expressed that as he owned his own taxi he should be able to smoke e-cigarettes in his vehicle and that they should not be banned. The Director of Public Health explained that although e-cigarettes were not a licensed product and was perfectly legal, the impact of e-cigarettes on other people was undefined. What the policy was doing was to harbour how e-cigarettes were dealt with bringing them in line with policy in place across the rest of Local Authority buildings.

- Some Members of the Taxi Trade stated that they had concerns in relation to banning e-cigarettes in taxis, as it was not against the law to smoke them in vehicles, therefore making it difficult for drivers to enforce with the possibility resulting in altercations with customers.

- Officers reiterated that stickers would be provided by the Local Authority, and the same principle could be applied as it was when drivers did not allow customers to eat or drink in their vehicles.

- Clarity was sought as to whether or not a driver could smoke an e-cigarette in his vehicle when he did not have a customer. It was confirmed that a taxi is a licensed vehicle at all times and therefore the driver would not be able to do this under the new proposal.

- The majority of the Trade, and Members of the Committee agreed with the proposal.

c. It was proposed that all new applications for hackney carriage vehicle licences should be wheelchair accessible, until the total number of Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAV’s) licensed reached 25% of the total hackney carriage fleet or equated to 70 vehicles, whichever was the lower, at which time the Policy would then be reviewed. The target level for WAVs essentially remained unchanged from current requirements; with the inclusion of ‘whichever is lower’ in order to add clarity should the 25% quota or the 70 vehicle target be reached.

Whilst there was broad support for a mixed taxi fleet of saloon and wheelchair accessible vehicles, the majority of respondents disagreed with the current target level for wheelchair accessible vehicles. However there were few suggestions as to what the target level should be amended to. Respondents were strongly opposed to the proposal to remove the current allowance which permitted existing licensed hackney carriage saloon vehicles to be replaced by another saloon vehicle.

The current number of WAVs within the hackney carriage fleet stood at 22 and had actually fallen from levels in 2012, when the figure was 26. The Government remained committed to an accessible public transport system in which disabled people had the same opportunities to travel as other members of society but had issued no further guidance on the issue of improving taxi provision for people with disabilities.

In comparison to other local authorities in the region, the number of WAVs in Stockton was low. Figures taken from the Department of Transport’s bi-annual survey carried out in 2013 were attached at Appendix 4. This showed that Stockton had 23 hackney carriage WAVs, the fourth lowest in the region in terms of number and the joint lowest in the region in terms of number per 1000 population (0.1). This could be compared with the regional average per 1000 population of 0.5 and the national average of 0.8. If the number of hackney carriage WAVs in Stockton were to reflect this regional average, there would need to be approximately 96 WAVs, whilst to reflect the national average there would need to be around 154 WAVs.

The number of private hire WAVs across the region was 154, compared to the total number of hackney carriage WAVs which stood at 1184. This was perhaps a reflection of the legal difficulties in compelling private hire operators to make a proportion of their fleet wheelchair accessible.

The 2011 Census identified that around 9.2% of people in Stockton-on-Tees had a long term health problem or disability which significantly limited their day-to-day activities. Further research carried out by the Papworth Trust in 2014, identified that there were around 1.2 million wheelchair users in the UK, equating to approximately 2% of the population. In Stockton this would equate to around 3930 people. Taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs) were a vital link in the accessible transport chain and, although disabled people were reported to travel a third less often than the public in general, they used taxis and PHVs on average 67% more often.

Officers had consulted with the Council’s Disability Staff Forum and also the Disability Advisory Group which was part of Stockton’s Local Strategic Partnership, and both groups were strongly in favour of retaining the target at current levels.
Members of the Taxi Trade were present and were given the opportunity to make representation. Their comments were summarised as follows:

- The Trade informed the Committee that they did not agree with the targets set. WAVS’s were expensive to buy and to licence. Competition within the industry and the poor economic climate was making it difficult for WAV’s to be afforded. In addition, the WAV’s were slower and therefore would take longer to earn the same fare as a saloon for example. Drivers had to work longer hours to make the same money they once were. WAV’s provided no incentive to the Trade. One driver explained that he owned a WAV and had done so for 4 years, in which time he had only had one customer in a wheelchair during that time.

- Members of the Trade indicated that not all disabled people were wheelchair bound and some preferred saloon cards to WAVS as they were easier to alight.

- Concerns were raised in relation to side and rear loading vehicles and which were more suitable for the disabled user. Stockton Borough Council (SBC) operated rear loading vehicles when transporting the disabled community around. Officers informed the trade that rear loading SBC vehicles were operated In a controlled environment.

- Many Members of the trade had improved their vehicles over the years, they were newer and in better repair than in previous years.

- It was suggested by the Trade that if drivers were given specific contracts for the disabled community then the vehicles would be more affordable.

Members of the Committee were given the opportunity to ask questions/make comments on the proposal and their comments could be summarised as follows:

- Some Members of the Committee had experienced difficulty themselves when trying to book WAV’s.

- Neighbouring authorities could not be compared to Stockton as the demographics were not the same.

- The proportion of people claiming for disability was going down.

- A review of the issues surrounding WAV's be carried out, including issues such as usage, rear loading and incentives to owners/drivers.

Members agreed to retain the current status quo with regard to WAV's and asked that a review of the issues surrounding their use be carried out in the future and a further report on this issue be brought back to the Licensing Committee.

d. Since the last Policy review in 2012, vehicle emission standards for new vehicles had improved. Indeed from September 2015, all new petrol and diesel cars were required to be compliant with Euro 6 emission standards.

Members were therefore asked to consider higher standards so that the renewal of existing hackney carriage and private hire vehicle licences would only be granted if the vehicle could meet Euro 4 emission standards as a minimum (current requirement is Euro 3). Euro 4 emission standards became mandatory for new cars from 2006 (Euro 3 from 2001). Vehicles that currently did not meet this standard would not be re-licensed when their licence was due for renewal in 2017.

There was clear agreement from the vast majority of respondents to this requirement that existing vehicles must meet Euro 4 emission standards by 2017.

It was also proposed that new and replacement vehicles would be expected to meet Euro 5 standards (current requirement is Euro 4). Euro 5 emission standards became mandatory for new cars from 2011.

The vast majority of respondents disagreed with this proposal and requested that this aspect of the revised Policy be deferred until 2018, citing the cost implications of purchasing a Euro 5 compliant vehicle as the main drawback.

If Members agreed to this deferral to 2018, this would mean that ‘new’ vehicles coming onto the fleet at that time could be as old as 9 years old, given that Euro 5 vehicles were on the market in 2009.

Officers had consulted with Environmental Health colleagues and they were supportive of the revised Policy criteria. It was stressed that whilst Stockton generally complied with UK air quality regulations, there were no safe level for certain pollutants and particulate matter and the Council should where practical always seek to improve air quality

Officers supported the proposal to improve emission levels to Euro 5 for all new and replacement vehicles. Current members of the trade had been aware since the Policy was originally introduced of the Council’s wish to lower emissions by increasing the level of Euro standard required and should have been able to plan for this when changing their vehicle.

Members of the Taxi Trade were present and were given the opportunity to make representation. Their comments were summarised as follows:

- It was reported that vehicles which were only carrying out short journeys were never operating at 100% in order to affect fuel emissions. It would be better if Stockton introduced a policy to keep cars of a certain standard.

- Stockton Councils own Environmental Service had suggested that fuel emissions had not affected the town in relation to air quality as air quality was considered to be very good.

Members agreed the proposals existing vehicles to meet Euro 4 standards by the time of their renewal in 2017 and for new and replacement vehicles to meet Euro 5 emission standards.

e. This proposal was an amended requirement for existing drivers and operators to successfully complete, if they had not already, one of the level 2 courses (or equivalent) at their own expense, by the anniversary of their licence in 2016. New applicants should have 12 months from the first grant of their licence to successfully complete one of the level 2 courses. This replaced the previous wording that completion of the course was required within 3 years from the grant or renewal of their next licence and gave a definite date for completion of the qualification, removing the anomaly which put those with a 3 year licence in a more advantageous position than those with a 1 year licence.

From the responses received there was widespread agreement on the need for existing drivers to complete the level 2 course, though many requested that the time period be deferred to the anniversary of their licence in 2017.

Officers would agree to this request, given the time delay in the review process due to the elections and the fact that the Policy was unlikely to be approved by Council before October 2015.

With regard to training requirement for new drivers, respondents again generally agreed in principle, though many did request that the time period for qualification be extended to 2 years from grant of licence.

Officers would not support this request and considered that 1 year was a reasonable time period in which new drivers could undertake the required training course.

Members of the Taxi Trade comments were summarised below:

- Some Trade members felt that new applicants should take the training course as part of their application.

- Congratulations were offered from the Trade that Officers supported the Trades request in relation to deferring the time period for existing drivers to complete the level 2 course to the anniversary of their licence in 2017.

Members agreed with the proposal for new drivers to complete the level 2 course within 1 year from the first grant of their licence and agreed with an amendment that the time period be deferred for existing drivers to complete the level 2 course to the anniversary of their licence in 2017.

Members were invited to consider the additional comments received in response to further comments or suggestions for changes to the Policy which was attached to the report.

Members made reference to the usage of booking APPS and whether these should be regulated and included in the policy. It was explained that a full policy review would be required if the use of APPS were to be introduced to the policy. It was highlighted that there was a national APP called UBER which was being rolled out in the larger cities and were concerned that this may affect the trade if it had a presence in Stockton and neighbouring Boroughs. To enable Officers to understand how UBER worked and the effect it might have on the Taxi Trade it was suggested that a report be brought back to a future meeting of the Licensing Committee.

Further issues had come to light since the first draft of the revised Policy and they had been incorporated into the current draft attached to the report. Members were asked to consider and comment upon these changes:-

f. HPI check. There was now an additional requirement that a current HPI check (i.e. dated within the within the last 28 days) must be produced, at the applicant’s own expense, when a vehicle application was first submitted and annually thereafter upon renewal (Appendix 2, paragraphs 97, 104 & 105 refer). This was required to ascertain whether the vehicle had been accident damaged and deemed an insurance write-off because it had come to light that not all accident damage categories were now showing on the V5 document.

There was mixed opinion in relation to the proposal surrounding HPI checks. The Taxi Trade felt they agreed that HPI checks should be carried out on first application however did not agree that they should have to submit them on an annual basis thereafter.

Officers explained that even if it was assumed that all taxi drivers reported accidents to the licensing department the category of the accident was not necessarily known.

The Taxi Trade raised concerns that neighbouring authorities had relaxed policy in relation to category D vehicles. This could impact on the Stockton Taxi Trade. There would be additional costs to pay for each year when drivers were already struggling financially due to a poor economic climate. A category on an HPI check did not guarantee how safe a car was, public safety was what was important.

After much discussion Members considered that the original draft proposals in relation to HPI checks outlined above would remain unchanged.

g. V5C Log Book. Concerns were raised by the Taxi Trade in relation to current policy which required drivers to produce the V5C at the same time an application was submitted. A request was made by the Trade that the authority reviewed current policy and reverted back to a previous policy where drivers were allowed a 28 day period in which to produce the V5C document.

Members agreed to retain the current status quo with regard to the requirement to produce a V5C log book at the time of application. Members asked that given the new requirement for carrying out HPI checks a review of the requirement for the V5C log book be carried out in the future and a further report on this issue be brought back to the Licensing Committee.

h. Driving Experience. A driver’s licence would not be granted to anyone who had not held a full driving licence for a period of three years. This period had been changed from 1 year to 3 years post qualification driving experience, to bring it in line with LGA national guidelines.

i. DVLA Licence Check. Following the abolition of the D9 paper counterpart, the DVLA had introduced a new system whereby the driver obtained a check code from the DVLA free of charge and shared this with the Council, so that checks could be carried out on-line to ascertain the status of the driver’s DVLA licence and any related penalty points or disqualifications.

j. Driver Training. Following the high profile child sexual exploitation cases in Rochdale and Rotherham and given the unique position that taxi drivers had within the community, a new requirement had been added for drivers and operators to complete safeguarding awareness training. It was proposed that existing drivers complete the course by the end of 2016 and new drivers within 1 year of the first grant of their licence.

k.Licence Duration. The period for which a private hire operator’s licence would be issued had been changed from 1 year to up to 5 years, following changes brought about by the Deregulation Act 2015.

l.Guidelines on the Relevance of Convictions, Cautions, Reprimands, Warnings, Complaints & Character. The guidelines had been altered to reflect national guidance issued by the LGA. The main changes were:-

- Major traffic offences - a licence would normally be refused where the applicant had been convicted of a driving offence that had resulted in a loss of life.

- Alcohol related offences - conviction free period remained unchanged at 4 years for drink driving offence; however a licence would normally be refused if an applicant had more than one conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol. Also, new requirement for applicants to show at least 3 years free from conviction for non-driving alcohol related offences.

- Drugs related offences - conviction free period unchanged at 5 years but a licence would normally be refused if an applicant had more than one conviction for drugs related offences. The presumption that the licence would be refused remained in place for “supply” offences.

- Sexual and Indecency Offences - this section had been reworded so that those convictions for the more serious sexual offences would generally be refused a licence, whilst for other offences the applicant would be expected to show a period of at least 10 years free from conviction. An application would be refused if the applicant had more than one conviction for sexual offences of this type. This was a change from the current presumption that an applicant with a conviction for any sexual offence would normally be refused a licence and Member’s views were sort on this change.

- Violence - the section had been reworded to specify the type of offences where the applicant would normally be refused a licence and those where the applicant would need to show periods of at least 10, 5 or 3 years free from conviction. Also a licence would normally be refused if an applicant had more than one conviction in the last ten years for an offence of a violent nature.

- Dishonesty - the section had been reworded but the minimum period of 3 years free from conviction was unchanged. However, there was a new requirement that a licence would normally be refused if an applicant had more than one conviction for a dishonesty offence in the last ten years.

- The specific section on public order offences had been removed as it was essentially now covered within the violence section, with a conviction free period of 3 years.
- There was a new section covering outstanding charges and summonses.
- There was a new section on non-conviction information.
- There was a new section on requirements once a licence has been granted.

Members agreed to the proposed changes to the Guidelines as detailed.

Once the Policy had been updated in line with the comments received from this meeting, it was intended that it would go to Cabinet in September 2015 and to full Council for final approval in October 2015.
Consideration was given to a report to review the Statement of Licensing Policy made under the Licensing Act 2003

The Authority was required by the Licensing Act 2003 to publish a Statement of Licensing Policy that set out its guiding principles for making licensing decisions under the Act. The Statement of Licensing Policy needed to be renewed every five years. The current Policy Statement took effect in January 2011 and was due for renewal in January 2016.

The Licensing Act 2003 was concerned with regulating the carrying on of licensable activities on licensed premises, at qualifying clubs and at temporary events within the terms of the Act. The licensable activities were:-

- The sale of alcohol by retail.
- The supply of alcohol by or on behalf of a club to, or to the order of, a member of the club.
- The provision of regulated entertainment.
- The provision of late night refreshment (hot food and drink provided at any time between 11.00 p.m. and 5.00 a.m. for consumption on or off the premises).

The Authority carried out its function under the Act with a view to promoting the four licensing objectives:-

- The prevention of crime and disorder.
- The prevention of public nuisance.
- The protection of children from harm.
- Ensuring public safety.

Each objective was of equal importance. It was relevant to note that there were no other licensing objectives, therefore these four stated objectives were paramount considerations at all times.

In carrying out its duties under the Act the Authority would look to balance the needs of residents, customers and business owners and in doing this would be guided by the Act’s four licensing objections. The Statement of Licensing Policy provided a local framework for this process and a copy of the revised draft was attached within appendix 1 of the report.

This marked the beginning of the review and consultation process for the draft revised Policy Statement. Whilst each licensing application was considered on its own merits, the Policy set out a general approach to making licensing decisions under the Act. The discretion of the Licensing Authority in relation to applications could only be used if relevant representations were received.

The main changes to the Policy Statement were contained within the report.

It was intended that formal consultation on the draft policy would run until mid-October 2015, with the aim of reporting back to Licensing Committee in late October 2015, to Cabinet in November 2015 and getting full Council approval in January 2016.

Members were given the opportunity to ask questions/make comments on the Statement of Licensing Policy and their comments could be summarised as follows:

- Concerns were raised in relation to what measures were being put in place to stop customers from getting too drunk.

- There were issues raised in relation to paragraph 132 of the report which came under the heading, ‘Licensing Hours’. It was felt that this change required re wording as it would conflict with current licenses which had already been issued.

Officers responded to the comments/questions raised by Members. Their comments could be summarised as follows:

- in relation to measures being put in place to reduce the number of people becoming intoxicated, it was explained that there was to be a new Town Centre Officer. The role would involve contacting all licencee’s in the town centre in relation to improving customer behaviour.
Consideration was given to a report to review the Statement of Principles for Gambling Premises in Stockton.

The Authority was required by the Gambling Act 2005 to publish a statement of the principles that it proposed to apply when exercising its functions under the Act, in the form of a Gambling Policy. The policy statement must be published every three years. The Council’s current policy statement took effect on 3rd January 2013 and was now due for review.

A new regulatory regime for gambling activities and businesses was introduced by the Gambling Act in 2005. The dual system shared the enforcement responsibilities between the Gambling Commission and Local Authorities. The Commission was responsible for issuing operator licences for businesses and individuals who provided traditional gambling activities such as arcades, betting shops and casinos as well as operators who provided remote gambling services.

Local Authority’s responsibilities included issuing premises licences to operators for betting shops, bingo premises and casinos premises; issuing permits for low stake gambling in venues such as pubs and registering societies to hold small lotteries.

The Gambling Act also required that before each successive period of 3 years, the Licensing Authority must prepare and publish a statement of principles that it proposed to apply in exercising its functions under the Act.

The Act required that the Authority carried out its various licensing functions with a view to promoting the following three licensing objectives:

• Preventing gambling from being a source of crime and disorder; being associated with crime or disorder or being used to support crime;
• Ensuring that gambling is carried out in a fair and open way;
• Protecting children and vulnerable person from being harmed or exploited by gambling.

Gambling Commission Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice;

Since the last Policy Statement was issued the Gambling Commission had published revised Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP) with many changes coming into force in May 2015. The main changes in this document related to the social responsibilities and obligations of operators, which fell under the remit of the Commission and not Local Authority Licensing. The changes were contained within the main report.

The revised policy made it clear that applicants must be aware and comply with the new social responsibility provisions and that the Authority would refer any examples of non-compliance to the Gambling Commission for appropriate action.

Gambling Commission Guidance to Licensing Authorities;

Since the last policy statement was issued the Commission had also produced updated guidance, this was currently under consultation. The main changes to the guidance were around the provisions for licensing authorities to include a local area profile based upon various data sources and also a new requirement that operators with premise licences produce a local risk assessment that was specific to a particular location within the Borough.

Gambling Prevalence Survey;

A national gambling prevalence survey was conducted on behalf of the Gambling Commission. The survey carried out during 2010 was the third nationally representative survey of participation in gambling and the prevalence of problem gambling in Great Britain. It builds on the two previous surveys conducted in 1999 and 2007, providing a valuable basis for understanding the way people gamble in Britain. The results were contained within the main report.

Current Premises Licences;

1. Since 1st January 2013 a total of 3 premises applications (all for betting premises) had been received and granted. A further 23 registrations for small lotteries had been received and 36 applications for gaming machine permissions in pubs and clubs had been issued.

All of the permits and licences issued (except the automatic entitlement for 2 or less gaming machines in pubs) were renewed annually.

Crime Statistics From Community Safety;

Since 2012 there had been 55 recorded offences linked to betting establishments or gaming arcades, where a location had been specified in the crime report. There were 19 reports in 2012; 22 reports in 2013 and 14 reports in 2014.

Of these offences, 9 were burglaries or attempted burglaries to the properties; 15 were criminal damage offences (windows and doors damaged); 5 were violent crimes (all 5 related to customer fights) and the remainder were theft offences (including theft of purse and wallets and bikes stolen from outside the premises).

There did not appear to be any issues with staff being assaulted within these locations. The locations of the premises were mainly within the Stockton Town Centre ward (35 of the 59 crimes) linked to Mecca Bingo or bookmakers on the High Street but there had also been offences at bookmakers around the Borough.

There was nothing to suggest that ASB was of concern at these premises or outside of them due to a gambling establishment being located there.

Main Policy Changes;

Amendments had been made to the Policy to ensure that it accorded with the Gambling Commission Guidance and it took into account all of the information contained within the main report. A copy of the revised policy was attached at within the report at Appendix 1.

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