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Agenda item

General Update on the Licensing Function and Progress on the Service Review

To consider the general update on the licensing function and progress on the service review.

Minutes:

7.1            The report of the Interim Environmental Health Manager, circulated at Pages No. 7-10, updated the Committee on the progress of the service review which aimed to deliver an effective and responsive licensing service, both as part of the recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and over the longer term. Members were asked to consider the general update on the licensing function and the progress on the service review.

7.2            The Head of Community Services advised that the Licensing service had been affected by COVID-19 and the workload of the Interim Environmental Health Manager was too great to undertake the review of the service so additional resources had been brought in to assist. The current service was extremely paper-based and not customer friendly which needed to be addressed. Additional operational resources had already been employed and there was now someone working with the Business Transformation Team to make the service more digital. The Corporate Leadership Team was equally concerned about the shortfalls in the service, particularly as the workload remained high in relation to requests for temporary events licences etc. In the short-term an Officer had commenced with the service this week for two days a week, then a more full-time resource would be employed for a year or so. There was work ongoing with the other authorities in the county so, in this instance, Tewkesbury Borough Council was using a resource from Cheltenham Borough Council who was well respected in the licensing field and in the county.

7.3            During the discussion which ensued, a Member questioned whether the existing paper-based systems would be analysed and taken forward in the most efficient and effective way even if that meant changing them. In response, the Head of Community Services explained there would be a thorough review to ensure the processes were correct and legally compliant. Referring to Paragraph 3.2.1 of the report, a Member questioned whether the consultation on the Taxi and Private Hire and Countywide Convictions Policy (Common Standards Policy), which was due to end on 6 July, had ended. The Head of Community Services undertook to find out, he also undertook to investigate when the consultation on the Mobile Homes and Caravan Sites Licensing Policy would take place.

7.4            A Member referred to Paragraph 3.3 of the report, headed public health as a licensing objective, and questioned what the significance was of public health not being one of the four licensing objectives. In response, the Head of Community Services explained that the government had considered adding it as a licensing objective but had felt that it was not appropriate. The Council’s Safety Advisory Group included a member of the Public Health Group meaning it had an input which had been particularly important throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In terms of the recruitment of a Licensing Enforcement Officer, the Head of Community Services advised that there was an Officer working with the Council’s licensing service as an interim measure so some enforcement was being undertaken but there was no proactive enforcement taking place. As advised previously, the Licensing Team Leader at Cheltenham Borough Council had been employed to undertake the review and it was felt that, as he was from within the county, it would be easier to look at broader relationships as well as partnering with other authorities for licensing and those would be considered as options within the review. A Member questioned whether there were any changes in legislation which might impact on licensing activities. The Legal Advisor was not aware of any specific changes at this stage and advised that, whilst there may be changes made as a result of COVID-19, those could take a long time to go through the legislative process. It was confirmed that no information had been forthcoming from the government as yet but letters had been received asking local authorities to be more considerate of licensing requests to help traders get back on their feet following the COVID-19 pandemic.

7.5            Accordingly, it was

                 RESOLVED           That the general update on the licensing function and progress                            on the service review be NOTED.

Supporting documents: