Animal Licence Fee hike "boo boo" revealed at meeting

Councillors will take another look to changes in Animal Licensing Fees after errors of process to a price hike were revealed.

At Powys County Council’s (PCC) planning, taxi licensing and rights of way committee, on Thursday April 29, councillors were “shocked” to find out that in effect, animal licensing fees were being operated on two tiers.

Senior enforcement officer Gavin Jones told councillors, that there had been procedural errors in the way the new licensing fees had been introduced late last year.

The new fees had been agreed in January 2020.

A consultation had followed and the council had received objections to the changes.

These objections should have brought to planning committee for discussion and decision.

Mr Jones, said: “At the time the objections were put in front of the then professional lead, who has subsequently left the council.

“In November 2020 it was decided that the fees would stand.

“Obviously that wasn’t correct.

“It wasn’t his decision to make and it should have been brought back to committee.”

Councillor Jon Williams said: “At the time we agreed this, nobody realised the effect Covid would have on everybody’s lives especially businesses.

“To implement these increases even from now, would be going against what I consider to be fair.”

Cllr Williams pointed out that at the last meeting, councillors had decided not to increase taxi licence fees.

He proposed going back to the Animal Licence Fees the council charged before January 2020.

Mr Jones then revealed another problem with the process.

He explained that following legal advice, licensees that objected to the increases, were refunded and put back to the pre January 2020 fees.

But those who didn’t object, had the new increases “imposed anyway”.

“If we were to accept the proposal we would have a dual system,” said Mr Jones.

Cllr Williams said: “I’m absolutely shocked.”

Planning committee solicitor, Colin Edwards, said: “I gave the legal advice to the department and I did so on the simple basis that there are a number of categories.

“What should have happened is that the objections should have come back to committee to consider what to do with those categories

“The recommended licence fees in the categories without objections would have stood anyway.”

Councillor Les George said: “There has been some major slip up in procedure, it isn’t the fault of the people with the animals or the committee, but Powys County Council.”

He was happy to support a recommendation by Cllr Williams to return the fees to a pre-January 2020 level.

Mr Edwards believed before making a decision the committee should have more information.

He advised deferring the decision to a later date to allow time for a new report with the financial implication of the changes to be considered.

Committee chairman, Cllr Karl Lewis said: “It would be wise to have all the information in front of us before making a decision that could be detrimental to the balance sheet.”

The debate came back to Cllr Williams, who believed a decision could be made on the information they already had.

Cllr Williams “Covid should be taken into consideration, the only deferral I would agree to is one to next April (2022).

“There has been a mistake by the authority, there’s no finger pointing but we have stand up and say, we’ve made a financial boo-boo.

“These people should not suffer because of our boo-boo.”

Cllr Lewis stressed that he would prefer a deferment.

Councillor Roger Williams then proposed the deferment which was seconded by Councillor Hywel Lewis.

A vote took place and the deferment was approved by 13 votes to four against.

This meant that a vote of Cllr Williams motion to go back to the pre January 2020 fees did not go to a vote.

The issue is supposed come back to the next planning meeting on May 20.

Proposed licence fees for 2021/22:

• Home Boarder – £268

• Commercial Kennels/Cattery – £303

• Dog Breeder – category one – £315

Fees for 2019/20

• Home Boarder – £106

• Commercial kennels/cattery (one to 10 cats/dogs) – £211

• Commercial kennels/cattery (11-30 cats/dogs) – £221

• Commercial kennels/cattery (over 31 cats/dogs) – £230

• Dog Breeder – category one – £211.

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