(Director of Neighbourhoods) To review the proceedings of the Licensing Sub-Committee held during the preceding period and identify any problems of procedure, policy and organisation that have adversely affected the running of the meetings.
(a) Pre-Meeting Briefings
At the last full committee meeting, Councillor Keska pointed out that the Sub-Committees used to get briefings before each of their meetings from Licensing Officers. Whilst they did not want a briefing on the cases before them, Members would appreciate a reminder of the options open to them for each application they considered. It was also mentioned that a Licensing Officer was present during Members’ deliberations in private session to advise on technical matters and that Members found this to aid good decision making.
Councillor Surtees noted that the views of the Sub-Committee, Licensing and Legal Officers did not always line up. Members have requested the attendance of a Legal Officer at the next meeting of the full Licensing Committee to explain why these briefings could not be held.
(b) Council Website
Councillor Pond has requested that Members consider the licensing information on the Council’s website with a view to it being made more useful and relevant to the public.
(a) Pre-Meeting Briefings
At the last meeting of the Committee, Cllr Keska had pointed out that the Sub-Committees used to receive a briefing before their meeting from Licensing Officers. Whilst Members did not necessarily require a full briefing before each meeting of the Sub-Committee, a reminder of the options available to the Sub-Committee for each application to be considered would be of benefit. It was also highlighted that Licensing Officers used to be present during Member deliberations in private session to advise on technical matters, which Members had also found useful.
The Assistant Director of Neighbourhoods (Neighbourhood Services) acknowledged that briefings did occur some years ago before each meeting of a Sub-Committee. The Assistant Director of Governance (Legal Services) stated that, legally, the Sub-Committee had to consider all of the options open to them, and these should be listed in the report. In addition, any advice received by the Sub-Committee at a briefing beforehand would have to be disclosed at the meeting of the Sub-Committee to all participants, which could raise more questions than answers at the meeting. Members were invited to let Officers know what other information they would like to receive before the meeting to assist in making decisions.
Cllr Keska added that this point had been raised by past and present Members of Licensing Sub-Committees. Members were given useful information on the relevant policy and options available to the Sub-Committee at the briefings before the actual meeting, and not details of the actual case(s) to be heard. The Assistant Director of Governance reminded everyone present that this should really be raised at the start of each case so everyone was aware of the issues involved. It was acknowledged that the current procedure did not specifically allow for this, but the Assistant Director of Governance stated that it was open to Members to raise questions of policy and procedure at any point during the proceedings as it would not look fair to the participants if advice was received by the Sub-Committee prior to the meeting. Members were invited to inform Officers of previous issues which could be addressed for future meetings.
Cllr Sartin suggested that Members could examine the DVLA Licence with the relevant convictions listed for each Applicant at a pre-meeting. The Assistant Director of Governance stated that this information could be given to the Sub-Committee prior to the meeting if it could be distributed confidentially, along with a list of the DVLA offence codes. This would be considered evidence so it would not cause any problem with the actual meeting itself. Alternatively, the meeting could be adjourned for ten minutes while the Sub-Committee retired to consider this information. The Assistant Director of Neighbourhoods stated that he would be very wary of giving copies of any disbarring notices to Members of the Sub-Committee, although they usually received a copy of the DVLA Licence issued as a ‘pink’ document which was not published for public consumption. The Licensing Manager reminded the Committee that they would not receive a copy of the Applicant’s DVLA Licence if the issue was with the criminal record (DBS) check rather than driving offences. The Assistant Director of Neighbourhoods agreed to re-issue all Members of the Licensing Committee with the DVLA list of driving offence codes. The Committee was also reminded that the DVLA no longer issued paper licences with the current endorsements listed on them; these had to be accessed online either by the Drivers themselves or by Licensing Officers if they were given the DVLA access code by the Driver.
Cllr Keska enquired whether a Sub-Committee could defer the determination of a particular case in order to liaise with another local authority. The Assistant Director of Governance stated that if the Sub-Committee had sufficient evidence before it then the application could not be deferred; however, if the Sub-Committee felt that it required further information during the meeting then the application could be legitimately deferred.
(b) Council Website
Cllr Pond requested that the Committee considered the Licensing information currently on the Council’s website, with a view to it being made more useful and relevant to the public. In particular, Cllr Pond felt that a schedule should be posted on the Council’s website listing all licensed Premises within the District and their permitted licensed activities to enable Members and the public to check.
The Assistant Director of Neighbourhoods (Neighbourhood Services) acknowledged that the Council’s website required updating and the Website Board was engaged in this, including interrogation with back office systems for information. Therefore, the ability to view a Premises Licence would be available in the future. However, the Assistant Director reminded the Committee that the contents of a Premises Licence was public knowledge, and residents could always be advised via email or telephone of the hours and conditions of a Premises Licence by the Licensing Team.
Cllr Neville welcomed this development for the future and encouraged the regular review of information on the Council’s website to ensure its accuracy.
(1) That Officers be informed of any further information that Members would like to receive before a meeting of a Licensing Sub-Committee to assist with their determination of cases;
(2) That Officers be informed by Members of previous issues which had occurred at previous Licensing Sub-Committee meetings in order to address them for future meetings; and
(3) That a list of the DVLA driving offence codes be re-issued to all Members of the Licensing Committee.