Update on Licensing Web-Content and Forms
The Regulatory Services Manager updated the Committee on the new Licensing web-contents and associated forms in order to help them assist with signposting constituents and understanding the information/resources/processes in place, and plans for future expansion of the services being offered online.
As Gravesham have a shared service with Medway, rather than having to maintain two sets of web-content, the licensing webpages will be designed to cater for both areas and the service users visiting the Medway website will simply be diverted to the Gravesham site.
The Regulatory Services Manager showed Members how the various Licensing forms and services worked on the website, highlighting the following key points:
· The forms were written in plain English making them easier for service users to complete than the many prescribed forms
· They included additional information to assist users in understanding what was required of them and of the processes that will be carried out by the licensing team to manage expectations and reduce avoidable contacts, for example, from users calling to enquire about their application
· They have automatic safeguards built in to prevent users from inputting incorrect information or applying for something they cannot have, and provide pop up explanations when this happens
· When the form is prescribed by statute, the system creates a version of the application form in the prescribed format to satisfy the legal requirements
· Applicants can attach any associated documents to their applications, either on a computer or by taking a photo on their smartphone or other device, to save them having to come into the Civic Centre unnecessarily or send/email them in separately:
· Applicants pay online at the time of submitting their forms
· With online application facilities, people can submit applications at their convenience from anywhere in the world – so if they go on holiday and then realise their licence will expire, they can quickly and simply apply to renew it from their sun lounger.
· Using the connector module, information submitted on a form is input directly into out back office system to avoid the need for officers to have to manually input it; thereby saving time and reducing the likelihood of errors
· Automatic post-application processes can be set up to reduce the burden on officers and ensure that customers are provided with the relevant information, on time, every time.
· It has proved cheaper due to reduced postage and printing costs
· Digitising the service was more environmentally friendly and created a far happier workforce due to the more onerous work being carried out automatically online
The Regulatory Services Manager stated that the first forms to be amended and uploaded to the website were primarily, Taxi and Private Hire Licensing and Customers could now apply and pay online for:
· a new or renewal driver, vehicle or operator licence
· their enhanced DBS check
· their place on our street knowledge tests
· a change to any of their licences
· the regrade of a vehicle licence
· the transfer of a vehicle licence
· replacement badges, licences or plates
So far the feedback from the Taxi trade has been very positive with many users understanding the new digital service; there were a few taxi drivers that needed extra help but they were invited to the Civic Centre where officers demonstrated to them how to use the online service confidently.
The Regulatory Services Manager further went through online forms demonstrating how to fill out a Temporary Event Notice and the process for applying for a Premises Licence; the benefits of digitising the application process were made clear to the Committee.
The Regulatory Services Manager fielded questions from Members and explained that:
· Each TEN application had to be submitted individually, there was no block submission allowed, as there were limits to how many TENs could be permitted: annually 50 TENs were allowed for a personal licence holder, 15 for a premises and a different number for non-personal licence holders. The back office system IDOX Uniform alerts the Licensing Team when the limit of TEN’s is nearing its set limit; the limitations are clearly set out on the website for the public to see
· Village halls did not have to apply for an alcohol licence if they weren’t selling alcohol
· Accuracy had improved exponentially as online forms removed human error and reminders were sent out periodically to all drivers when their licence was coming to an end to ensure prompt reapplication
· Currently, there is no online public licensing register however it is being looked into for the future.
The Chair thanked the Licensing Team and the Digital Team for their hard work and future plans as the the online service was most helpful and beneficial to the public users.