The operator (TH) was in attendance. Neighbourhood Enforcement Officer AW was also in attendance.
The Licensing Officer introduced the report and drew attention to the following:
· This case is unusual as it refers to the grant of an operator rather than driver licence. TH held an operator licence between 2015-18 but this was not renewed.
· TH was investigated by the Neighbourhood Enforcement Team in 2020 for unlicensed activity. TH had made new vehicle applications over this period but did not renew his operator licence. TH admitted operation and said that he was not aware that his operator licence had expired.
· TH appeared at PSP in 2015 due to driving without a private hire licence.
· There is no specific operator policy now, but committee should use the driver policy as a guideline. Committee should consider fit and proper person test.
The applicant gave the following evidence:
· TH believed that his case had been reviewed by the BCC legal team and they had found there was no intention to operate without a licence. He was not sure why he also had to appear at PSP.
· Officers confirmed that was an interview under caution concerning possible criminal prosecution. PSP is not a criminal matter but is the policy and administration of the licencing authority.
· TH said as soon as he found out the operator licence was not in place, he put in an application. TH said he did not receive any kind of notification of expiry. In this time frame TH had renewed 4 vehicle licences with BCC, most recently in April 2020.
After questioning from the committee, the following information was confirmed:
· While officers do send out notifications to licence holders, it is still the responsibility of the licence holder to be aware of their expiry date, which is on their licence paperwork.
· TH said he would be more aware of his renewal dates in future and would also renew for a longer period (three years rather than one). TH said that it was a very difficult time for operators and drivers, especially for those dependent on hospitality, events, and travel.
· TH said he believed he was being harshly treated and this could have been dealt with informally rather than a referral to the NET. Officers said that all drivers and operators work under the same rules.
· Officers said TH has a track record of not having the correct licences in place and not reading his paperwork properly. TH admitted not being the most organised person, but that he operated four vehicles and drivers, all of whom have the correct paperwork.
· TH said he preferred to manage licencing paperwork face to face at Temple Street, but this has not been possible due to lockdown. He viewed the service via email as slow, however the licencing team has limited capacity. Applications are requested 10 days in advance as a minimum and the team aim to reply to emails within 5 days.
· TH has a driver renewal pending, but this is on hold until this hearing is concluded.
The Committee withdrew to deliberate on their decision.
RESOLVED (unanimous decision)
The Private Hire Operator licence is granted. The applicant was reminded he is obliged as an operator to make sure his paperwork is in order. The committee was prepared to grant a licence on the principle that the applicant takes his responsibilities more seriously.