Councillors must behave properly and listen to the evidence

Related tags Morning advertiser Public entertainment licence Critical thinking

It isn't often I make it onto the back page of the Morning Advertiser, mainly because I like to keep the vagaries of my private life out of the reach...

It isn't often I make it onto the back page of the Morning Advertiser, mainly because I like to keep the vagaries of my private life out of the reach of Snifter and his pals!

But by chance one of my more Cassandra-like pronounce-ments was faithfully repor-ted, when a group of Tam-worth councillors decide to de-camp half way through a licensing hearing the other week.

Apparently there was a vote of no confidence taken in the chairman while the committee was deliberating on an application for a public entertainment licence.

It seems hardly credible and, of course, we shall never know the full truth. But by any stretch of the imagination, this is not decision making by judicial process. It's a kind of political lottery.

The Government made great play at the start of this changeover period of the fact that local councillors were "accountable" whereas the justices were not. So where is the accountability in this case?

The legal officer of the council simply said that the proceedings could go ahead because there was still a quorum. The hapless licensee was refused the licence amid confusion and controversy. The councillors involved will not be held to account. They will simply play the political card and escape blame.

This decision directly affects the livelihood of the applicant involved. It could well be that in view of the opposition to the grant, it may have been turned down in any case. But surely she is entitled to a proper hearing, conducted fairly and with the issues properly debated in a judicial manner?

To add political wrangling and personality clashes to the mix while purporting to make a legally-binding decision on an administrative matter is clearly unfair.

The licensing meeting is not a council debating chamber. Politics should be left at the front door. Each and every member of that committee had a duty to conduct themselves properly, to listen to the evidence and then to come to a proper decision based entirely on that evidence that they had all heard.

If those basic principles are not followed by local authority licensing committees, then we are in for a very hard time over the next few years.

There will be far less certainty over the outcome of licensing applications, even with a well-prepared case. Costs may rise because lawyers will claim, quite rightly, that they have to do more work on what might now be seen as straightforward applications simply to guard against an unforeseen turn of events.

I hope I am proved wrong. But Cassandra wasn't!

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