While this consultation was never about whether respondents support/opposed licensing, some of the comments from local authorities on the impact of licensing are really quite stark. The Scottish Government maintain that the fees charged will make the system cost neutral but the local councils clearly state that does not address:
It should be noted that some of the respondents below may actually support licensing in general but have concerns about its implementation at the current time and without it being properly resourced. So we can’t necessarily say x or y council opposes licensing overall.
“It will be necessary to understand the administrative burden that this may place on local authorities and how this will be resourced.”
Aberdeen City Council
“We believe that the 12-month lead-in time to establish our Short-term Let regime will be resource intensive and there will be no ability to recruit additional staff when resources aren’t available until licence applications are submitted and fees paid. This poses staffing issues for the council. Consequently, we believe that the Scottish Government should fund the start-up costs.”
“…it is considered essential that Scottish Government provide specific funding for additional resources required by LA’s to cover the initial set up costs, including the transitional and compliance elements of the new legislation.”
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
“We have no indication of what the full impact of any COVID-19 fallout will be as the situation is ongoing. Economic recovery may be protracted and we may be dependent on our Tourism Sector to inject life into our economy. Providing us with as much flexibility as possible with regard to regulations would help us in the long term.”
“The evidence gathering, consultation and mechanism to set up a control area will require resourcing, finance and additional staff time to deal with retrospective planning applications where these are required during the transitional period. This legislation will have significant implications for both Development Plans & Development Management, ever diminishing teams against a background of annual budget cuts.
The issue of enforcing regulations and the extra work this will entail is likely to fall on Planning and Licencing staff. In the current climate, the Comhairle is undergoing consultations on cuts that will need to be made to balance support given during lockdown. There is no budget available currently for the recruiting and training of staff and although it is anticipated that potential fees will pay for any staff, there is an initial outlay required, which has not been planned for in budgets. We propose an initial start-up grant or loan from Scottish Government.
Each application would require due consideration and income from planning fees for Change of Use, at current levels, would be unlikely to cover additional staff time for this work.”
“Paragraph 6.4 all local authorities must have a live licencing scheme open to receive licensing applications by 1 April 2022.
• There are 18 months until this needs to be in place, and probably about 12 months once we know the outcome of this consultation and see guidance in the spring. There are policies to be written, consultations to be carried out with public and stakeholders, committees to seek approval from, staff to be employed and trained etc. We are still working from home and under restriction, and with the best will in the world, 18 (or 12) months to get everything underway, when we don’t know what is happening with our workplace, or indeed the way we are working, seems ambitious. We propose the deadline is pushed back by one year.”
Glasgow City Council
“It is anticipated that there will be significant resourcing issues for the Local Authority in setting up a licensing scheme. Significant staff resourcing for set of scheme/verification process/carrying out inspections/enforcement etc. would be required.”
“The new regulatory responsibility of both licensing and control areas are anticipated to have significant, budgetary and regulatory impacts on the Highland Council; invoking responsibilities in relation to the status and safety of a very large number of properties across a dispersed geographical area…”
Highland Council also estimate that they could receive as much as “10,000 potential applications” on licensing and that while the “scheme permits a phased approach over a 3-year period but this will still present considerable administrative and operational undertaking for dealing with the initial applications. Ongoing resource will then be needed for renewals and new premises.
The workload will necessitate additional staff for the following teams:
• Licensing team – additional administrative licensing staff
• Planning team – additional full-time posts (professional support officers) for a two-year period. There would still be resource required after this two-year period to cover new and renewed licence enquiries, however this is anticipated to be at a much lower level.
• Environmental Health additional full-time posts (technical officers) for a two-year period. There would still be resource required after this two-year period to cover new and renewed licence enquiries, however this is anticipated to be at a much lower level.
• ICT systems – a review of the on-line tools to enable self-service and on-line payments to streamline the application and payment process.”
North Ayrshire Council
“Councils are to set up a new system, complete with new conditions and an inspection system involving Housing, Protective Services and Planning by 1 April 2022 at the latest. This would be a substantial task at any time, but it is particularly onerous when Council staff, working remotely, are facing increased demands to provide services to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic and Councils are facing unprecedented challenges, particularly with regard to licensing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
(a) if premises are to be inspected, Council staff must be available for this;
(b) Council staff are already having to work under pressure as the Coronavirus restrictions are regularly changed. In the case of STLs, where there are objections or representations to Licence Applications, delegated powers are not available to Council officers and the Application must be considered by the Licensing Committee. If there are to be around 327 Applications in North Ayrshire, then a portion of them will need a ‘virtual hearing’ compliant with ECHR 6. This would place a burden on Licensing Authorities at a time when they are least able to bear it.
2.2. Although Councils will be able to choose when the licencing scheme will start locally, it must be within 12 months after 1 April 2021.
2.3. The new STL system commences at most 18 months away, and Councils have not seen the secondary legislation on which the new system will be based. It will be laid in Parliament in December 2020 and has not been issued in draft. It has not been stated whether Application forms and other documentation will be prescribed, or whether they are to be drafted by individual Councils.”
South Ayrshire Council
“…there is an element of concern regarding the proposed lead in time for implementation of a robust licencing regime, the resources this will require and the added pressure to workloads required of staff and services.”
“The implementation, management and enforcement of the [licensing] process is considered particularly resource intensive for local authorities, with little guidance given around who would be expected to lead the process.”
West Dunbartonshire Council
“For smaller authorities with fewer short term let premises it may be difficult to fully resource an effective and efficient service without the fees being very high and thereby creating a wide and varying fee structure across the country. There is a concern about the level of Fees that a smaller Local Authority may charge where they are not dealing with a large volume of applications and have limited resources to deal with such applications. The fee structure may not be of a sufficient level to meet resource concerns and the adverse comparisons by the public as to differing fee structures around the country as can happen in Civic Government Licensing.”
Read more about the impact of the proposals on local authorities.