Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans, bright future

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

Date:
Tuesday, 15th January, 2013
Time:
10.00 a.m.
Place:
Council Chamber, Town Hall, High Street, Stockton on Tees, TS18 1AJ
 
Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

Attendance Details

Present:
Cllr Mrs Kathryn Nelson (In the Chair), Cllr Michael Clark, Cllr Evaline Cunningham, Cllr Phillip Dennis, Cllr Ken Dixon, Cllr Eileen Johnson, Cllr Ray McCall, Cllr Maurice Perry, Cllr David Wilburn and Cllr Bill Woodhead.
Officers:
J Jones, M Vaines (DNS); T Harrison, J Nertney (LD).
In Attendance:
Operators.
Apologies for absence:
Cllr Paul Kirton, Cllr Jean Kirby and Cllr Alan Lewis.
Item Description Decision
Public
L
67/12
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
 
L
68/12
MINUTES OF THE MEETINGS HELD ON 2ND OCTOBER 2012 AND 9TH OCTOBER 2012 FOR CONFIRMATION AND SIGNATURE BY THE CHAIR
 
L
69/12
EXCLUSION OF THE PUBLIC
RESOLVED that under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government ACT 1972 the public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involved the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 1 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act.
Confidential
L
70/12
PRIVATE HIRE OPERATOR
  • Private Hire Operator
RESOLVED that the application for the renewal of the Operators licence be refused under the provisions of Section 62(1) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
10.00am - 12.00noon

Preamble

ItemPreamble
L
68/12
The minutes of the meetings held on 2nd October 2012 and the 9th October 2012 were confirmed and signed by the Chair.
L
70/12
Consideration was given to a report on an application for a renewal of a Private Hire Operators Licence for a Private Hire Operator. The report also detailed a number of disciplinary issues.

Members noted that none of the Directors of the Company were in attendance at the meeting and an employee of the Company, who described himself as a Manager was in attendance to represent the Company. Members noted that the Manager did not call any evidence on behalf of the Company from any Company Officer or other employee and that no documentary evidence had been provided. The Driver Manager who appeared on behalf of the Company provided Members with an explanation in relation to each of the disciplinary matters that were before Members.

After the report was presented by the Licensing Officer, Members invited the Driver Manager to respond to the report and provide an explanation on behalf of the Company or any mitigation which he wished to put forward. It was noted that the Driver Manager provided the following explanations:-

It was accepted that the Company was in breach of the conditions which had been attached to the licence when it had been renewed previously. It was accepted that the Company should have notified the Council of changes to the composition of the Company and in particular a condition was attached to the licence which stated that "There shall be no material alteration in the composition of the Company without written notice being given to the Local Authority within seven days of its alteration". The Company had failed to notify the Council that a new Director had been appointed with effect from 24.01.12. The Driver Manager advised that the owner had not wanted it to be public knowledge that a new Director had been appointed.

In relation to the conviction of an employee for the offence of driving a Hackney Carriage without a licence, The Driver Manager stated that the employee was not a Director of the Company and was an employee. The Driver Manager stated that the employee had taken the Hackney Carriage vehicle without the knowledge of the Management or Directors of the Company and had received a written warning from the Company.

In relation to the application forms for vehicle licences the Driver Manager stated that he believed the applications had been made correctly. The Driver Manager explained that the Council would not accept an application from a proprietor unless the vehicle registration document was in the proprietor's name. The Driver Manager stated that the intention had been for the individuals to purchase the vehicles from the Company and the registration documents were therefore transferred into their names in order for them to make an application to licence the vehicles. However the vehicles were never owned by these proprietors as they had not paid the Company for them and the vehicles were therefore transferred back into the name of the Company on the vehicle registration documents. The Driver Manager explained that there had been no ulterior motive in the transfer of ownership.

In relation to the operation of the Company's vehicles at Mecca Bingo, the Driver Manager stated that he had been asked to review the practices which had been used by the Control Room Staff. The Driver Manager asked the Control Room Staff how the process at Mecca Bingo worked and he stated that they informed him of the manual paper record system and this was what the Driver Manager conveyed to Officers during interview. The Driver Manager stated that although he had not been 100% happy with the process being used he felt that it was legal so long as the information recorded on the manual record corresponded with the passenger picked up from the location. In or around August 2012, The Driver Manager realised that he had been misled by the assurances given to him by the Control Room Staff and he gave an instruction that the Company's operation of the system in relation to Mecca Bingo should be stopped. The Driver Manager stated that he believed there have been no more issues in that location.

In relation to the use of an unlicensed driver on a school run, the Driver Manager explained that the Company had taken a booking to cover a school run over a two day period. The Driver Manager stated that on the second day the Control Room operator/dispatcher realised that although he had a minibus available he did not have a driver who held the appropriate licence. The Control Room operator took the decision to instruct an employee to undertake the job. The employee in question did not have the appropriate licence to drive the vehicle for hire or reward but the Control Room Operator believed that if he did not charge the Council for the job then it would be permitted. The Driver Manager stated that the Control Room Operator had acted on his own initiative but he had been wrong. The Manager stated that the Company took legal advice on the employment issues and the Control Room Operator was given a final written warning.

In relation to the insurance issues, The Driver Manager stated that some confusion had been caused by the requirements of Stockton Council in relation to what was accepted. The Principal Licensing Officer stated that the insurance requirements were part of the Council's Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Licensing Policy and were introduced following judgements in the Courts for which the Council had been previously involved. The Driver Manager stated that he had not had sight of the letters or the suspension notice that had been sent by the Council; otherwise he would have ensured that the requested information was provided.

In relation to the parking of the Company vehicles in residential areas, the Driver Manager stated that it was difficult for the Company to take action unless they were informed of the licence plates of the vehicles in question. The Driver Manager stated that the Company had given general warnings to drivers in relation to parking issues via the vehicle data systems and monthly newsletters.

The Driver Manager confirmed that he was aware of the six complaints that had been received from the Council and stated that he had received one directly from a member of the public.

In relation to the letter from the Insolvency Service, the Driver Manager stated that the Transport Manager had not been aware that he could not be involved in the management of a company and that he had now resigned from his management position. The Driver Manager stated that at the present time the Transport Manager only worked approximately 2 hours a day and dealt with jobs that the Driver Manager delegated to him. The Transport Manager no longer had any management role at the Company.

The Driver Manager summarised by stating that he believed he was doing a good job at the Company and since he took over in June/July 2012 the Company had been relatively clear of misdemeanours.

Members were concerned that the Driver Manager had stated that an employee managed the day time Control Room operations at the Company despite having received two written warnings in relation to his conduct. The Driver Manager stated that the first written warning had been received after the employee was caught in a Hackney Carriage, which he had driven without the appropriate licence. The Driver Manager stated that the second written warning was a final written warning and that this had been issued by the Company after the employee had dispatched a driver who did not hold the appropriate licence to undertake a school run. The Driver Manager was questioned about the written warnings and was unable to provide further clarification as this was the responsibility of another employee who worked at the Company. The Driver Manager did not provide any documentary evidence to corroborate that these written warnings had been issued to the employee. The Driver Manager was also questioned on what disciplinary process was followed in relation to the employee but was unable to provide clarity on the process. The Driver Manager stated that a Director and himself had decided that the employee should be given the written warnings.

In relation to the test purchase operations at Mecca Bingo, Members were satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the Company had been wilfully operating a system, which did not comply with legislative requirements. It was of further concern that an explanation had been provided to Licensing Officers that a manual record of bookings was being operated by the Company. When Licensing Officers had visited the Company to make enquiries, the night time Control Room Manager had informed them that he had no knowledge of a manual system or record. This was extremely concerning to Members as the Drivers Manager had stated that the night time Control Room Manager was in charge of night time Control Room operations. If anyone should have known that such a manual record was allegedly being kept then it should have been the night time Control Room Manager. On the balance of probabilities Members were satisfied that the Company had wilfully carried out a system of working and practice at Mecca Bingo which was unlawful.

In relation to the use of an unlicensed driver to undertake a school run, the explanation put forward by the Driver Manager again implicated the day time Control Room Manager in this matter. The Driver Manager stated that the day time Control Room Manager had taken the decision to dispatch the unlicensed driver. The Driver Manager stated that the day time Control Room Manager had been given a final written warning in relation to this issue. It was noted that the Driver Manager had not provided copies of any written warnings allegedly given to the day time Control Room Manager.

Members noted the structure of the Company and the shareholding. It was noted that there were four brothers who were involved in the control and/or operation of the Company, sole shareholder and night time Control Room Manager, Director, the day time Control Room Manager and employee. The Driver Manager had informed Members of the sole shareholder in the Company. The Company had two Directors appointed. The Directors of the Company were not in attendance at Committee in relation to the application for the renewal of the Company's Operators Licence. The Company had been provided with a copy of the report and was well aware that there were a number of issues concerning the operation of the Company in relation to its statutory duties and/or functions.

Members were mindful that some of the issues contained in the report were of a relatively minor nature, for example, the complaints that had been received regarding the parking of Company vehicles in residential areas. Members appreciated the explanation put forward by the Driver Manager that it was difficult for the Company to take appropriate action if they did not know the details of the specific vehicles involved. Although it was accepted the Driver Manager had not produced any evidence to show that the Company had taken such complaints seriously such as minutes of any meetings with their drivers, notices that may be displayed in their office or newsletters that may have been distributed to their staff. If the Company were taking such issues seriously then Members would have expected to see some evidence such as this.

Members noted that the issue of the provision of insurance certificates had been another cause of concern. Other licensed Operators were able to comply with the Council's requirements and the Company was causing the Licensing Administration Team additional work by being unable to provide the requested documentation in a timely fashion. Members noted that in the bigger picture issues such as these would not normally result in action being taken. However, such issues showed the attitude of the Company to the operation of their business and such issues could in their totality called into question the fitness of an Operator.

In considering this matter Members were mindful that the renewal of the Operator's licence had to be considered in light of the previous history of the Company and in particular the previous decision of the Licensing Committee on 21 February 2012. Less than a year earlier, the Company had appeared before the Licensing Committee in relation to disciplinary matters and complaints. At that time Members gave consideration to refusing the Company Operators licence application. The Company was warned at that time that any failure to act on the assurances given to Members could result in them being brought back before Members where its continued fitness would be considered. At that time Members also noted that there had been a history of "the Company changing names and/or Operators when the level of complaints or issues increased". Members made it clear "that further instances of bad practice could not be explained away by simply blaming previous employees and if such situations occurred in the future this could demonstrate that the problem lay with the owners of the Company who may feel that they could act in a manner not compliant with licensing law and good practice and that if disciplinary issues resulted they could simply appoint a new Operator or Company representative".

Members were of the opinion that was precisely the picture that was presented to them by the Driver Manager. It was also of extreme concern to Members that neither of the Directors had attended in relation to this matter. Members were mindful that it was the Company that was the applicant for the renewal of the Operators licence and that the Driver Manager was a Company employee. Members had to consider whether on the basis of the evidence before them, including the previous history of the Company, whether they remained a fit and proper person to hold an Operator's licence. The Committee noted that the sole shareholder, one of the Directors and certain Managers of the Company were brothers. Members were satisfied that the problem lay with the Company and that the Company was not a fit and proper person to hold an Operator's Licence.

Can't find it

Can't find what you're looking for? Let us know and we'll do our best to point you in the right direction