Agenda and draft minutes

Extraordinary meeting, Licensing Committee - Wednesday, 17th August, 2022 7.00 pm

Venue: Committee Rooms A & B - Town Hall

Contact: Email: Democratic.Services@crawley.gov.uk 

Items
No. Item

1.

Disclosures of Interest

In accordance with the Council's Code of Conduct, councillors are reminded that it is a requirement to declare interests where appropriate.

 

Minutes:

The Legal Clerk advised that they had been made aware that some Councillors had been involved in matters relating to the dispute relating to the private hire operator at the concession at Gatwick Airport and some private hire drivers working at Gatwick.  In light of this, the Legal Clerk advised the Committee to consider whether it had any disclosable Interests in the item of business before it.  In addition, the Legal Clerk reminded the Committee that it was of fundamental importance that the Committee remained open to listening to all the submissions put forward at the meeting and remained open to changing its mind in light of those submissions.  Should any Committee Member believe they had pre-determined their position (i.e. that their mind was made up as to how they would vote prior to the meeting), they should declare as such and withdraw from the meeting.

 

At this point in the meeting a Committee Member raised a Point of Order, and questioned whether the Legal Clerk, who was not a Council employee but had been appointed to represent the Council for the meeting, was authorised to attend the meeting in the capacity of ‘Legal Clerk’.  The Committee was advised that the Legal Clerk had been properly appointed to represent the Committee and the Chair ruled that Mr Lewin be authorised to continue to represent the Council in that capacity for the meeting.

 

Following a query relating to pre-determination and whether the requirements and enforcement in relation to it were still in place following the Localism Act 2011, the Legal Clerk acknowledged that the rules regarding pre-determination had changed.  The Legal Clerk however advised that the change did not remove the principle of pre-determination altogether and it was important that Councillors consider any matter before them with an open mind.  The Legal Clerk reminded the Committee that it was a matter for each individual Committee Member to consider whether they might have pre-determined.

 

Councillor Jones stated they were not aware of any Committee Member, including himself, who had pre-determined their position in relation to the matter on the agenda.

 

Councillors Ali, Irvine, Jones, Lamb and Nawaz confirmed that they had received some form of lobbying in respect of Agenda Item 4 (Variation to the Crawley Borough Council Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Licensing Policy).  In response to a concern raised by a member of the Committee, the Democratic Services Officer assured the Committee that lobbying was not classed as an Interest and would be minuted as lobbying.  During the debate of the agenda item Councillor Jones informed the Committee that, he had entered into some external correspondence, those discussions had not referenced teal plates nor the matter under discussion at this meeting.

 

 

The following disclosures of interests were made:

 

Councillor

Item and Minute

Type and Nature of Disclosure

 

Councillor

Irvine

Variation to the Crawley Borough Council Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Licensing Policy (Minute 3)

Personal Interest – member of the Unite the Union.

Councillor

Lamb

Variation to the Crawley Borough  ...  view the full minutes text for item 1.

2.

Minutes pdf icon PDF 81 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the Licensing Committee held on 20 June 2022.

 

Minutes:

The minutes of the meeting of the Licensing Committee held on 20 June 2022 were approved as a correct record and signed by the Chair.

3.

Variation to the Crawley Borough Council Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Licensing Policy pdf icon PDF 83 KB

At the request of the Chair, an urgent Licensing Committee meeting has been called to consider a variation to the Crawley Borough Council Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Licensing Policy relating to licensed vehicles' identification plates. This follows communications received by the Chair regarding the Gatwick Airport private hire vehicle concession.

 

To consider report HCS/043 of the Head of Community Services (report to follow).

Minutes:

The Committee considered report HCS/043 of the Head of Community Services which advised that the Chair of the Licensing Committee had called the extraordinary meeting and requested that the Committee consider a variation or temporary suspension to section 2.11.6 of the Crawley Borough Council Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Licensing Policy 2022-2026 (‘the Policy’), which related to the colour of vehicle licence plates that must be displayed by licensed private hire vehicles when undertaking work exclusively from Gatwick Airport.  The Team Leader Principal for the Health, Safety and Licensing Team presented the report in full to the Committee.

 

Although constitutionally there were no public speaking rights at the Licensing Committee, the Chair had used their discretion to grant permission to several relevant parties who had requested to address the Committee on the matter before it.

 

Mr Nick Venes (a licensed driver and Unite the Union representative) addressed the Committee and made the following points:

·        Demand at Gatwick had been high recently due to cancelled flights, staffing issues and train strikes, but that demand had now reduced and was expected to remain at the current level. 

·        Drivers were happy with how the Council regulated licences and were proud to be so highly regulated as it reflected their professionalism.

·        90% of the drivers who serve Gatwick Airport lived and worked within the Borough.

·        The teal plates set those private hire vehicles which serve Gatwick apart from those which serve the remainder of the town.  That differentiation meant they could be easily identifiable.

·        Gatwick was a different entity from other private hires and hackney carriages as the number of passengers from Gatwick fluctuated across the seasons.

·        Suspending the teal plates would help going forward, and as such, it was requested that the Committee take that into consideration when making its decision.

 

Mr Ahjaz Ali (a licensed driver and Unite the Union representative) addressed the Committee and made the following points:

·        They had been in dispute with the operator at Gatwick Airport and were of the view that recruiting additional drivers whilst in dispute was unfair.

·        An unusually high number of teal plates had been issued recently in a short space of time which undermined the trade.  The reasons for that were questioned and it was suggested that the issuing process had been sped up.

·        The likelihood of drivers making a living wage and recouping the investment of their vehicle was at risk if they had to share the work with a lot of other drivers, especially as the level of trade at Gatwick during the winter months was minimal.

·        The majority of the drivers at Gatwick lived locally.  Those drivers supported the local economy and local residents.

·        Raised concern as to how the new drivers had been introduced into Gatwick.

·        Requested that an immediate suspension be put in place and a cap on the number of plates issued be applied.

·        Proposed that temporary plates (to cover the summer period) could be introduced which could then revert back to yellow plates following peak  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.