BOROUGH OF BARROW-IN-FURNESS LICENSING COMMITTEE Meeting: 14th December, 2006 at 2.00 p.m. PRESENT:- Councillors Roberts (Chairman), James (Vice-Chairman), Flanagan, Flitcroft, Garside, Hamezeian, Irwin, Opie and S. Richardson. 50 – The Local Government Act, 1972 as amended by the Local Government (Access to Information) Act, 1985 and Access to Information (Variation) Order, 2006 Discussion arising hereon it was RESOLVED:- That under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act, 1972 the public and press be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraphs 2 and 7 (Minute Nos. 61-64) of Part One of Schedule 12A of the said Act. 51 – Disclosures of Interest Councillor James declared a personal interest in Agenda item No. EH6 – South Lakes Wild Animal Park, Crossgates, Dalton-in-Furness (Minute No. 59), she was a season ticket holder and supporter. 52 – Apologies for Absence/Attendance of Substitutes Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Maddox and Wood. Councillor Opie attended the meeting as a substitute for Councillor Maddox. 53 – Minutes The Minutes of the meeting held on 2 nd November, 2006 were taken as read and confirmed however, in reference to Minute No. 49 – Statement of Licensing Policy – Gambling Act 2005 and Member Training, it was noted that a Councillor had expressed concerns regarding the postponement of the training from January until June 2007. This had been omitted from the Minutes on 2 nd November, 2006. 54 – Seating Configuration in Licensed Vehicles The Chief Environmental Health Officer had submitted a report requesting Members to consider relaxing a Private Hire/Hackney Carriage Licence Condition concerning access to the rearmost row of seats in licensed MPV taxis. This followed the publishing of Best Practice Guidance and similar action by other Local Authorities. A number of years ago the following condition had been attached to vehicle licenses:“In no circumstances would any vehicle be licensed which would require any passenger to move any seat to enter or egress from any seat they may occupy or that would require them to climb over seats or luggage in the vehicle”. This condition was introduced following safety concerns and the size of seats in some vehicles which were not adequate for adults. The condition related to vehicles with a third row of rear seats where the seat had to be tipped forward to gain access to the area. At the time this condition also brought the Council in line with South Lakeland District Council which also had a similar requirement. The Chief Environmental Health Officer reported that he had received an application for a licence from Mr Turnbull for a brand new purpose-built Private Hire Vehicle. The vehicle was a Renault Traffic which had eight passenger seats with two rows of three seats in the rear. Access to the three rearmost seats could only be gained by folding down the outer third back part of the middle row of seats which would conflict with the condition outlined above. As a result Mr Turnbull had requested an amendment to the condition in his case. As mentioned above this vehicle has been sold as a purpose built conversion and also has wheelchair runners in the floor to anchor wheelchairs. Following Mr Turnbull‟s request to amend the condition an Officer had contacted other local Councils and it appeared that most Authorities would now allow such a vehicle to be licensed for eight passengers and allow the tipping forward of a seat to gain access to the rearmost seats. In addition recently published Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing: Best Practice Guidance recommends that authorities should not license vehicles for less than their designated seating capacity (provided the capacity is not more than eight passengers). In view of the information outlined above Members were requested to consider removing the condition to allow Mr Turnbull to carry eight passengers in his new purpose built Renault Traffic. The Chief Environmental Health Officer highlighted that amending the condition in this case could set a precedent and result in further requests and therefore proposed an amendment to his original recommendation detailed in the report to state that Members relaxed the condition in this particular case only and that each subsequent application should be judged on its own merits. RESOLVED:- (i) To agree to relax the condition in this particular case only concerning access to the rearmost row of seats in Private Hire Vehicles and Hackney Carriages; and (ii) To agree that all subsequent applications would be judged on their own merits. 55 – Advertising on Vehicles The Chief Environmental Health Officer submitted a report dealing with the clarification of licence conditions in relation to advertising on bodywork of Hackney Carriages and Private Hire Vehicles. The matter had recently been discussed at a meeting of the Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Trade Liaison meeting and had been raised following a request by Members to look into the issue of guidance with regards to advertising. He reported that at Licensing Committee on 6th July, 2006 Members had considered a report concerning advertising on licensed vehicles. This report had resulted from Mr John Cleasby advertising his bath restoration business on his vehicle. At that meeting Members agreed to allow Mr Cleasby to retain the current advertising material on the bodywork of his Hackney Carriage, subject to the advertising being removed from the boot, the bumper and the rear windows of the vehicle, until such time that clear guidelines had been formulated. Within the Chief Environmental Health Officer‟s report from 6 th July, 2006 he referred to the Licensing Committee which was held on 14th June, 2000, at that meeting it was resolved that the condition – “Advertising was allowed on the front door panels of vehicles or interior of vehicles only, subject to the size, design and content being to the satisfaction of the Council. No advertising material must be displayed on windows which must be kept free of any visual obstruction”, – be amended to permit the advertising of the services of the operator, subject to the approval by the Borough Council. The “services of the operator” were intended to mean the services of the Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Company only and not for some other service that the operator may have provided. It was never intended that saloon type vehicles would be allowed to have any advertising other than on the front door panels. The advertising on the rest of the bodywork was intended to be allowed on people carrier/mini bus type vehicles, purpose built taxis or airport vehicles which lend themselves more to sign writing. It was also suggested that advertising which promoted the area may also be allowed especially on vehicles which were used on airport runs. Any advertising over and above the basic door advertisements promoting the business of the operator needed to be approved by the Council. Advertising requirements at Carlisle City Council had also discussed. Carlisle allowed complete livery cover advertising on London style cabs but only allowed adverts on the rear doors of saloon car type vehicles. At a recent meeting of the Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Trade Liaison Group they considered that the standards mentioned above were sensible and did not feel that extending the above criteria would help and may confuse further the differentiation between Hackney Carriages and Private Hire Vehicles. In light of this the Chief Environmental Health Officer requested Members to re-affirm the existing licence conditions. RESOLVED:- (i) To agree that Members reconfirmed the decision made by the Committee on 14th June, 2000; and (ii) That guidance based on information given in the body of the report be given to members of the trade. 56 – Persons Having an Interest in Hackney Carriage Licences The Chief Environmental Health Officer submitted a report regarding the issue of persons with an “interest” in Hackney Carriage Licences. He reported that he had received some information relating to an individual who apparently was in prison and had an interest in several Hackney Carriage licences, although no record of this individual appeared on any licence. He reported that the number of Hackney Carriage licences issued by the Authority was capped and although Hackney Carriage plates belonged to the Authority, they had a substantial monetary value with legislation allowing the sale of the business (vehicle and licence) or joint proprietorship of the business. In some cases Hackney Carriage licences were purchased by joint venture with the two parties going into joint partnership and one of the parties paying rent to the other. In these circumstances both names had appeared on the licence details. Currently the application forms used by the Authority did not request information concerning any details of other persons having an interest in the business i.e. a sleeping partner for insurance. He raised concerns that unsuitable people may have control over licence ownership without ever coming to the notice of the Authority. He further commented that there was no provision for undertaking criminal records checks for vehicle operators, only for the drivers. To address this anomaly the Chief Environmental Health Officer proposed that the current application form be amended to include a declaration to enable the Authority to have details of all individuals who had an interest in the business. The proposed amendment was as follows:“State the name and address of every person including any limited company who was a proprietor or part proprietor of the above vehicle, and every person who was concerned either solely or in partnership with any other person or as a Director or Secretary of a company in the renting, keeping, employing or letting for hire such vehicle. Forename and Surname Address Tel No. I/we declare that to the best of my/our knowledge and belief, the answers given above are true. If a licence is granted I/we undertake to comply with the conditions attached on grant of the licence and/or the hackney carriage byelaws. Date:…………………………………. Usual signature of applicant(s):…………………………………………….” RESOLVED:- To agree to approve the amendment of the Private Hire Vehicle/Hackney Carriage application form as detailed above. 57 – Vehicle Licensing Plates The Chief Environmental Health Officer reported on proposals to replace the current style of Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Licence plates with ones which contained more information which would not only assist in the enforcement but also assist proprietors in effectively running their businesses. Currently information given on the plates, one which must be on the front of the vehicle and one on the rear of the vehicle, was restricted to the licence number and the number of passengers the vehicle was licensed to carry. He reported that now many Local Authorities now used plates which contained far more information including the make, model, colour and registration number of the vehicle and the expiry date of the licence in addition to the information previously mentioned. This extra information helped in enforcement, stopped the swapping of plates onto untested vehicles and also helped operators keep track of when their vehicles need re-licensing. Contact had been made with a company which had a compatible system for our licensing software system capable of producing plates at a very competitive price. The rear plate was larger and included all the information, the front one was smaller and only included the licence number and the number of passengers the vehicle was licensed to carry. The rear plate would need replacing annually upon renewal of the licence or when the vehicle was replaced. Costs for the rear plates worked out at approximately £3.66 and the front plates £2.32. In addition, it would be necessary for the Authority to purchase a special plate laminator at a cost of approximately £232. The proposals to replace the current style of plates had been discussed at a recent Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Trade Liaison meeting; the representatives present were in favour of providing more information on the plates. Currently Hackney Carriage plates were yellow with black writing and Private Hire Vehicle plates were white with red writing. Trade representations suggested changing the colour of private hire plates to a red background to help differentiate between the two types of vehicles which was difficult under street lighting. RESOLVED:- To approve the change to a new plate design and colour (in part) subject to securing the appropriate funds as part of the 2007/08 budget process. 58 – Furness Owl Centre The Chief Environmental Health Officer reported on a number of non-compliances with licence conditions in respect of Furness Owl Centre, Sandscale Park, Barrowin-Furness. He reported that a Zoo Licence was issued in June 2006 with conditions attached and compliance timescales. He reported that the licence holder, Mr S. Jones, had found it difficult to meet some of the timescales for compliance with specific licence conditions and given that this was a new venture his enforcement colleagues had given Mr Jones some latitude to achieve compliance. To date there remained a number of licence conditions that had not been complied with and therefore Mr Jones was in contravention of this licence. The Chief Environmental Health Officer reported that none of the outstanding conditions represented a significant risk to public safety or animal welfare and requested Members to consider amending the Furness Owl Centre Zoo Licence to require compliance with specific licence conditions in accordance with the proposed new timescales. Mr Jones attended the meeting and addressed the Committee; he confirmed that the new timescales presented were achievable and that he was happy with them. The Committee advised Mr Jones that should he experience any problems in achieving the new proposed timescales outlined within the report that he should contact the Environmental Health Department as soon as possible to notify them of this. RESOLVED:- (i) To note the information regarding the current compliance with licence conditions; and (ii) To amend the existing Furness Owl Centre Zoo Licence conditions in accordance with the timescales for compliance detailed in Appendix 3 to the report. 59 – South Lakes Wild Animal Park, Crossgates, Dalton-in-Furness The Chief Environmental Health Officer provided an update report on compliance with the recently amended licensing conditions of South Lakes Wild Animal Park. He reported that following a special inspection of the Animal Park undertaken by Mr M. Fielding, the Nominated Zoo Inspector under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 on 10 th August, 2006, on 14th September, 2006 the Licensing Committee had made a formal decision to amend the licence conditions of the premises to incorporate changes to improve public safety, animal welfare and deter the escape of animals breaching the perimeter fencing. Members further required that a progress report on compliance with amended conditions be provided within three months. The Chief Environmental Health Officer reported that considerable progress had been made in complying with the amended conditions and attached to his report a summary of actions taken. He drew Members‟ attention to conditions relating to the review of the perimeter fencing and the review and re-design of the overhead walking area. Compliance with these conditions would be achieved at the time when the agreed works had been completed. He confirmed that to date Mr Gill, the licence holder, had met the relevant timescales in undertaking agreed reviews and it was expected that the work would be completed by October 2007. Members were requested to note the information and the Chief Environmental Health Officer suggested that a further progress report should be presented in six months time. Mr Gill had been invited to today‟s meeting to address the Committee but had not taken the opportunity to do so. RESOLVED:- (i) To note the progress report; and (ii) To agree that a further report be submitted within six months of today‟s meeting. 60 – Disclosure of Information – Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) The Chief Environmental Health Officer updated Members on the appropriate use of „approved‟ information provided at the Chief Police Officer‟s discretion in Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) enhanced disclosures. He reported that at the meeting of this Committee on 16th March, 2006 Members had deferred making a decision on how „additional information‟ should be used and requested guidance from the Council‟s Consultant Solicitor on this matter. The Chief Environmental Health reported that he had contacted the Council‟s Consultant Solicitor and it was clear from the advice given that „additional information‟ could only be used for decision-making purposes in Licensing Committee application hearings when the „additional information‟ had been released to the applicant and had been given the opportunity to question or respond to the „additional information‟ at the hearing should he/she so wish. Members were requested to agree to amend existing CRB procedures to accommodate the advice indicated above. RESOLVED:- To agree to amend the existing CRB procedures to reflect that „additional information‟ provided at the Chief Police Officer‟s discretion in Enhanced Disclosures should be used for Licensing Committee tribunals only when the Chief Police Officer, or his agent, has agreed to release the information to the applicant, to facilitate open discussion and questioning, at a time before or during the hearing of applications. 61 – Private Hire Vehicle Driver The Chief Environmental Health Officer reported on information which had been drawn to his attention regarding Mr Pratt, a Private Hire Vehicle driver and set out details of the Committee‟s policy regarding such matters. Mr Pratt had been invited to attend today‟s meeting but had failed to do so. RESOLVED:- To agree that consideration of this matter be deferred until the next meeting of the Committee and that Mr Pratt be informed that should he fail to attend that meeting, a decision would be made by the Committee in his absence. 62 – Application for Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Drivers Licence The Chief Environmental Health Officer reported that he had received an application for a Hackney Carriage/Private Hire Vehicle Drivers Licence from Mr Dale Burns. He submitted information which had been drawn to his attention concerning Mr Burns and set out details of the Committee‟s policy regarding such matters. Mr Burns had been invited to attend today‟s meeting but had failed to do so. RESOLVED:- To agree that consideration of this matter be deferred until the next meeting of the Committee and that Mr Burns be informed that should he fail to attend that meeting, a decision would be made by the Committee in his absence. 63 – Application for Private Hire Vehicle Drivers Licence The Chief Environmental Health Officer reported that he had received an application for a Private Hire Vehicle Drivers Licence from Mr John Duke Ruane. He submitted information which had been drawn to his attention concerning Mr Ruane and set out details of the Committee‟s policy regarding such matters. Mr Ruane attended the meeting and addressed the Committee. A Police representative was also present at the meeting. RESOLVED:- To agree to grant Mr Ruane with a Private Hire Vehicle Drivers Licence and that he be issued with a severe written warning as to his future conduct. 64 – Application for Private Hire Vehicle Drivers Licence The Chief Environmental Health Officer reported that he had received an application for a Private Hire Vehicle Drivers Licence from Ms Lorraine Hatton. He submitted information which had been drawn to his attention concerning Ms Hatton and set out details of the Committee‟s policy regarding such matters. Ms Hatton had been invited to attend today‟s meeting but had submitted her apologies for absence. The Committee considered the information which had been drawn to their attention regarding Ms Hatton and as the information related to an isolated incident they agreed to make a decision on her application in her absence, contrary to the Council‟s usual policy of deferring the application to the next meeting, giving the applicant another opportunity to attend. RESOLVED:- To agree to issue Ms Hatton with a Private Hire Vehicle Drivers Licence. The meeting closed at 3.22 p.m.