To receive a report from the Lead Licensing Officer regarding Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Fees.
The Committee had before it a report * from the Lead Licensing Officer recommending the adoption of licence fees.
The officer outlined the contents of the report, explaining that Mid Devon District Council had statutory responsibility for the administration and enforcement of a wide range of licences, registrations and permits. Many of these schemes allowed the Council to charge a fee, payable by an applicant for a licence, in order to cover the costs (or a proportion of the costs) of the administration of those licence types. In some cases, costs could include other aspects of providing the regulatory scheme, such as monitoring compliance.
The officer explained that the general principle in setting these fees was to ensure full cost recovery, or as close to this as possible. A number of legal cases over the years had confirmed that licensing fees could not be used to generate a profit for Councils, and that fees should be reviewed regularly to ensure they remained accurate. Additionally, it had become increasingly clear that authorities must be able to demonstrate how fees have been calculated.
Some application fees were set nationally (i.e. fees under the Licensing Act) so the local authority had no discretion on what it charged. Others were set by the Council themselves and these included fees for:
• Hackney carriage and private hire licences
• Animal related licences
• Scrap metal licences
• Acupuncture, tattooing, ear-piercing and electrolysis registrations.
The officer informed Members that a fee spreadsheet had been introduced on the basis that it would provide greater detail on the cost of each individual application and the associated processes. It would also make it simpler to review and amend specific fees in the future.
The officer described the spreadsheet to Members, explaining that it could be used to clarify charges if a request for information was received. He explained that the spreadsheet contained:
• An introductory tab that provided a brief overview of the relevant legislation along with an explanation of how the spreadsheet itself worked.
• A ‘base’ cost tab which contained a number of details, including staff hourly rates (with certain on-costs) and the cost of specialist materials / software. It also included the number of applications received in previous years which provided an average for the number of applications to expect in the future.
• A ‘fee’ tab which provided an overview of the total final cost of each application, adding together the base cost, administration cost, monitoring compliance cost (if applicable) and the specific application process cost.
• An ‘administration’ tab which outlined the general time and costs allocated year on year to the maintenance of the regime (not specific to the processing of an individual application). This included things like general administration, updating web pages, staff training and policy and procedural amendments / developments.
• A ‘monitoring compliance’ tab that outlined the time spent dealing with complaints, pro-active monitoring and joint operations with partner agencies. These costs were applied to vehicle applications only.
• Separate individual tabs for each application which showed the approximate average time it took to administer, from initial enquiry to the issuing of a licence.
Discussion took place regarding:
· The importance of being transparent regarding how fees were set in case of challenge;
· Some processes, such as checking MOT information on line had become cheaper but other areas, such as additional hearings for new drivers, had become more expensive;
· The aim to be cost neutral over the year and the small deficit from the previous year;
· Comparison with fees charged by other authorities.
It was RESOLVED that
a) The fees set out in the report be approved and be introduced as soon as possible, in compliance with the requirement to advertise and consider objections.
b) If there were objections to the fees when they were advertised then delegated authority be given to the Public Health and Professional Services Manager, in conjunction with the Chair of the Regulatory Committee, to consider the objection(s) and set a further date, not later than two months after the first specified date on which the variation will come into force, with or without modification.
(Proposed by the Chairman)
Note: - Report * previously circulated and attached to the Minutes.