To consider the attached report.
The Regulatory Service Manager introduced the report on taxi and animal welfare licence fees.
She noted that new animal welfare regulations were introduced in October 2018 updating section 1 of the Pet Animals Act 1951. The new Regulations required a robust inspection and reporting regime and required inspecting officers to be qualified to NVQ Level 3 by October 2021. As a result, the licensing team had introduced new inspection processes for all premises such as Animal Boarding Establishments, Home Boarding, Riding Schools & Pet Shops and officers would start the NVQ training this November.
The Regulations allowed the licensing authority to recover all reasonable costs without making a profit, for the administration of the licensing function which included processing applications.
It was apparent that the officer time spent in administering this licensing function was considerably more than previously anticipated and that the existing charges of £250 plus vet fee did not reflect the true cost to the Council. A benchmarking exercise and cost recovery calculation had been carried out based on officer time and associated costs, in accordance with Government guidance and the new fees, as set out in the report, would be recommended to Cabinet as part of the Council’s overall fees and charges schedule for 2020/21. The fees would then be reviewed annually.
Councillor Pond asked if the Council had enough staff to cover this extra work. The Regulatory Service Manager replied that they were looking at staff and staff training at present. All existing staff were to be trained and the proposed structure took this extra work into account. It was challenging but they hoped they had it covered especially with the new IT system.
Councillor Neville asked how many animal licences per year were issued and how much would it cost the council for the training of staff. The Licensing Team Manager said that around 120 animal licences were issued but this would be growing. Officers would also now have to score them under a five-star rating system and would have to consider new categories such as animal exhibitions as well as welfare and their transport. The Regulatory Service Manager added the cost for training each officer would be about £1500.
Councillor Sartin asked if any benchmarking had been carried out against other councils. She was told that it had been.
The Regulatory Service Manager said that she and the Licensing Team Manager had carried out a benchmarking exercise and a cost recovery calculation based on officer time and associated costs for proposed Taxi licence fees for 2020/21. Comparing these calculated figures against the existing taxi fees, with an annual inflation factor applied, the results were generally comparable and did not justify a full consultation to the trade on what would be marginal adjustments. The current licence fees for 2019/20 would therefore continue to be applied for 2020/21 with the appropriate inflationary increase applied.
The report to Cabinet would propose that the fees and charges for all other activities falling within the Licensing Service for 2020/21 would be the existing fees for 2019/20 with the general uplift applied. The inflation rate used for these calculations was 2.5%, but this would be reviewed.
That the Licensing Committee noted the proposed uplift in the fees.