Valerie Simpson, Bi-Borough Head of Environmental Health, Licensing and Trading Standards introduced the Licensing Team’s Annual Update. Valerie Simpson said that it had been a busy year for the team. There had been an increase in the number of new premises licence applications, although the number of personal licence applications had fallen. Valerie Simpson said that the Licensing Sub-Committee had been effective and had been ably assisted by strong partnership working with the Police Licensing team.
An overview was provided on a variety of performance statistics for 2017/18 compared to the previous year. It was noted that most applications had been agreed in part and there had also been 3 refusals and 2 revocations. Only 1 appeal was received but this was subsequently withdrawn. Details were provided on the significant number of inspections which were conducted, as well as the work which had been done on complaints. An explanation was provided on the use of action plans and the success these had in reducing cases of crime and disorder.
Valerie Simpson outlined the steps which had been taken by the team to improve processes. Measures included the development of additional access management reports to better manage the application work flow and improve data integrity. Companies listed on licensing applications were now checked against the information held by Companies House. Further work included the refreshing of rateable value data on the Uniform database for all premises licences to ensure that the rateable value, fee band, and VOA reference number were correct as well as, updating the information on the website.
Valerie Simpson explained that the Statement of Licensing Policy had been approved by Full Council last year and that at present, the Statement of Gambling Policy was currently at the consultation stage and would come into force next year.
With regards to the priorities for next year, Valerie Simpson explained that the team would be focusing on a number of areas. These included works to improve local pub watch schemes, the use and issue of Fixed Penalty Notices for the illegal sale of alcohol to underage children and work with business intelligence to improve the report information that the team received.
Councillor Colin Aherne noted the number of complaints received (which had then been investigated) had doubled and asked what had caused this. Lisa White explained there was no particular reason for the increase in the number of complaints, but these mainly stemmed from residents being better networked and more aware of the service. Councillor Zarar Qayyum asked why inspection and enforcement visits to businesses had risen from 118 in the previous year, to 277. Lisa White explained it was normal for these to fluctuate on an annual basis. In some cases, it was normal for some premises to attract multiple complaints on the same evening for example, those made about the King’s Road, which explained why the figure was so high.
Councillor Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler enquired about the CIA’s and whether there were any plans to review the current arrangements and consider other zones. Adrian Overton confirmed that the 2 current CIAs would be reviewed however, there is no reason why they should not remain and there were no proposals for a new zone. Valerie Simpson confirmed it was usual practice for the CIAs to be reviewed every several years. The Chair asked whether officers worked with resident’s groups on CIAs and for example, with the Barclay Road Residents Group. Lisa White confirmed that officers conducted surveys within a given area and consultations included input from residents and local businesses. Lisa White confirmed that the team planned to meet with Barclay Road Residents Group and the Police to discuss a number of ongoing issues in the near future.
The Chair asked whether access to information and in particular CCTV footage had changed since the introduction of GDPR. In response, Tom Stewart confirmed there was no change to procedures. Councillor Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler noted that the Home Office had been appointed as a further responsible authority in 2014 and expressed concern about its ability to attend hearings as required. In response, Tom Stewart confirmed that in the Metropolitan Polices’ experience, he did not have any concerns about their attendance and they were very keen to do so.
Councillor Rachel Leighton asked for more details to provided on the 277 complaints which had been received. Adrian Overton confirmed that in the south of the borough, complaints mainly focused on pubs and pertained to asb, noise and public nuisance. In the north of the borough, complaints stemmed from late night refreshments, off licences and instances of street drinking. Following on from this, Councillor Leighton asked how the Licensing team decided what to focus on to ensure resources were used most effectively. In response, Adrian Overton acknowledged that it was a small team and that the best way to be effective was to talk to complainants about the relevant premises and the issues they were experiencing and then prioritise accordingly.
Lisa White confirmed that most complaints covered numerous aspects of noise and or ASB and therefore they often worked in conjunction with either the Noise & Nuisance Team or the Police Licensing Team to investigate complaints. Councillor Rachel Leighton asked whether the team investigated complaints which did not stem from high profile premises. Lisa White stated that all complaints were investigated, all premises were risk rated and ones which were the source of complaints were visited on a regular basis.