Agenda item

Licensing Fees

This report sets out recommended fees for the licensing service for 2024-25 following a detailed review. The fees recommended are based on cost recovery.


[Councillor Cooper declared a personal interest as a member of the Hair and Barber Council]


The Environmental Health Team Manager was invited by the Chair to present the report.  The report set out the proposed licence fees for specified licensing regimes to take effect on 1 April 2024. He explained that officers currently provided significant advice to applicants for which they were unable to charge.  Therefore, a new pre-application advice fee was proposed that would allow officers to recover some of their costs by charging for pre-application advice if the advice provided was longer than 30 minutes.  Changes had also been made to the way taxi applications were made with payment being required in advance, which would ensure the recovery of costs if an application was abandoned or withdrawn.  A fee incentive was also recommended for taxi vehicle applications by offering a discounted fee for full electric and plug-in hybrid taxi vehicles. 


A typographical error in the proposed fees schedule, at appendix 2, was brought to the attention of members.  Under the heading Animal Boarding Franchise, Provision Boarding (franchises) Re-score fee, Part A should read £39.00.  Details were provided of a new charge for Animal Licensing Minor Variations fee recommended at £40.00, which had been omitted from the fee table.


The recommendation was proposed by Councillor Goodheart and seconded by Councillor Madeley.


The Chair then invited members to make comment or ask questions.  Responding to the comments made, the Environmental Health Team Manager provided details of how fees and charges were reviewed, advising the fee increases were set on a cost recovery basis.  As regards to a suggestion that the Gambling Act 2005 fees seemed low due to the negative social consequences compared to the profits made by gambling shops, he explained that the Council could not use fees as a deterrent, and although the fees charged by the Council were below the statutory maximum they had been set on the required cost recovery basis.


As regards to dogs being abandoned or indiscriminately sold by breeders and the suggestion that the fee should include a cost element of the impact of dealing with these dogs, the Environmental Health Team Manager advised that it was not possible to increase fees as a deterrent.  However, the fee could be reduced as an incentive but it should be noted that the Council would not be able to recover all of its costs.  He drew attention to the current challenges the service faced in recruiting qualified staff, which had an impact on the amount of additional work the service could carry out.    It was noted that if members had a desire for officers to undertake more proactive work to identify unlicensed breeders officers would need to carry out work to understand the resources required and how it would be funded.  He said that separately there is an intention to review the on-cost model to ensure the Council is fully recovering its costs through licence fees.  The Committee requested that the outcome be reported back to a future meeting of this Committee. 


Responding to further questions the Environmental Health Team Manager explained an inspection process was in place regarding the competence of skin piercers and there was no licensing regime in place for licensing dogs.  If a stray dog owner could not be identified the Council could not collect the stray dog fee and if they no longer wanted their dog the Council would attempt to obtain the fee from them.  He referred to periods where there had been a high number of stray dogs, for example post-Covid 19 pandemic and potentially following the introduction of the XL Bully type requirement.


A member referred to paragraph 4.7 of the report and welcomed the new incentive recommended of a discounted fee for the licensing of full electric and plug-in hybrid taxi vehicles.  It was incumbent on the Council to assess the costs relating to carbon emissions.  Officers were asked to consider, when reviewing the 2025-26 fees, they consider amending the pre-application advice fee to 15 minutes for businesses and 30 minutes for individuals.  Officers were asked to consider having detailed discussions with members around the specifics of gambling, the cost of carbon emissions and pre-application advice ahead of a report being considered by the Committee.


 It was agreed that the questions, and officer responses, submitted by Councillor McAuliffe in advance of the meeting regarding the Council’s procedures relating to stray dogs if not claimed after seven days and a suggestion that organisational oncosts should be increased further to capture a proportion for carbon emission offsets would be forwarded to the Committee.


Responding to further questions the Environmental Health Team Manager confirmed that it was statutory requirement for all dogs to be fitted with a microchip.  As regards to Barber shops a member advised that there was no statutory licensing requirement. The Environmental Health Team Manager added that Barber shops fell under the Health and Safety at Work legislation, regulated by the environmental health officers to ensure premises were safe and can investigate any accidents or injuries that occurred.  Further details were provided regarding the licensing of vessels and navigators under the boat fees.  The fee for temporary event notices did not appear in the fees table as it was a statutory fee and the different fees charged for Licensing Act pre-application advice was based on the complexity of the event. 


   The Committee




That Licensing Committee adopt the licensing fees as set out in Appendix 1, to be effective from 1 April 2024.


[Councillor Cooper left the meeting at the end of this item and did not return].

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