Local councils claim relaxed opening hours will lead to more crime and disorder

Related tags Local councils New licensing Licensing reform License Local government

Local councils have spoken out against the proposed relaxation of licensing hours claiming that it will lead to increased costs and more crime and...

Local councils have spoken out against the proposed relaxation of licensing hours claiming that it will lead to increased costs and more crime and disorder.

Some councils said they will have to pick up the costs of the new licensing system which will include extra administration and the extra burden of street cleaning and policing the late-night economy.

Although the reforms have been given a thumbs-up by the majority in the pub industry, a major fear is that local authority control will add more bureaucracy, costs and give undue attention to residents' views.

This has been supported by The Publican's own Licensing Survey, which was conducted during the summer. It revealed that while 86 per cent of licensees support licensing reform, 70 per cent believe control of licensing should remain with magistrates.

Camden Council is calling on local businesses, traders and residents' associations to lobby against the new Licensing Bill. It is concerned that it will struggle to cope with taking on the responsibility for licensing as it will lead to an increase in disorder and a transition period that is too short for them to fully implement.

The council has been working with MP Frank Dobson, who is fighting to give local authorities sweeping powers to refuse licence applications. Camden warns that although it supports licensing reform, the bill may not be able to take into account local concerns about disorder and the costs of handling licences in the borough.

Camden Council leader, Cllr Jane Roberts, said: "We are concerned the new legislation won't allow councils to consider the impact of crime and anti-social behaviour caused by a build-up of late night venues in an area.

"Local authorities and their council taxpayers should not be asked to foot the bill for licence applications and the after-hours clean-up."

Westminster Council, which has been operating an anti-licensing policy in its borough, has also spoken out against the bill.

It claims an increase in staggered opening hours will lead to a rise in disorder - although all evidence, including that of the police, say it will help reduce it.

Simon Milton, leader of the council, said: "The government's Licensing Bill could threaten its drive against the yob culture. The unintended consequences of licensing reform could be to increase late night disorder in town centres."

Middlesbrough Council, which has been criticised by licensees in the area for trying to force pubs to pay additional costs for litter collections, extra policing and street cleaning, has confirmed that it will be looking closely at the bill. A spokesman said: "The council will be studying the bill in great detail with the police and all our community safety partners."

But the Association of London Government, which represents 33 councils in London, has supported the government's reform.

Chairman of the association Phil Portwood said: "The volume of potential applications from venues across the capital and the higher cost of processing applications in London compared to the rest of the country means there needs to be a clear framework for fees and dealing with appeals."

Related topics Legislation

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