Councils seek powers to revoke pub licences

By John Harrington

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Councils seek powers to revoke pub licences
An influential group of councils is calling for premises licences to be renewed annually and for the licences to be automatically revoked if the...

An influential group of councils is calling for premises licences to be renewed annually and for the licences to be automatically revoked if the renewal fee is not paid on time.

Currently, licensees pay annual licence fees - not renewal fees.

If they fail to pay this, they do not lose their licence, but the council has to recover the debt, which can entail a visit from bailiffs.

The MA learnt this week that the 10 "scrutiny councils", appointed to test how the Licensing Act is working, want to change the rules so premises licences have to be renewed and paid on time, or face revocation.

They argue that recovering debts is costly and time-consuming.

Jim Hunter, licensing manager at Taunton Deane Borough Council, which is one of the scrutiny councils, said the authorities have argued for the change during regular meetings with the Department for Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) and other Government bodies.

Hunter said: "For a council to pursue a sundry debt costs more to get back in costs than the debt itself in lots of cases.

"I don't think there's one local authority that wants it to be that way. It's a ludicrous arrangement."

Peter Barrow, head of licensing at Birmingham City Council, which is another scrutiny council, said: "We don't think someone should hold on to a licence if they don't pay an annual charge."

Licence renewals were re-quired under the previous licensing regime, but these were dropped from the new Licensing Act to reduce red tape for councils.

MA legal expert Peter Coulson said switching to an annual renewal would be a "complete U-turn" for Government.

"It would require major amendments to the Licensing Act that I don't think are being contemplated by DCMS at this stage."

Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations chief executive Tony Payne said: "I would leave it as it is, but I can see what the local authorities are saying. It can be costly for them to recover the money."

To comment on this or any other story email us by clicking this link

Your CommentsKen Nason​ via email 14/07/2006"In this society of market forces, isn't it up to the councils to deliver a licensing service that is streamlined and efficient and, from the licensees point of view, value for money? If this was the case then they would have no problem with people paying up on time.

If on the other hand they look upon the fee as reward for inefficiency and a political book balancing exercise then, people will perceive withholding or protracted payment as a statement of discontent with the system (see the council tax issue).

As with pub customers, give value for money and people will gladly open their wallets.

Welcome to the real world outside the civil service boys."

Robert Feal-Martinez​ via email 14/07/2006"This has come about because the media, councils and some solicitors and others have continually rfered to the administration fee as a Premises Licence renewal. As for the staement by the council that On Licences were renewable. Yes, once every 3 years at a cost of £30 without any admin fees. Local Aunthorities wanted Licensing because they thought it was going to be a cash cow, at licensees expense, and it still maybe, so for pity sake Mr Payne, try saying something supportive of Licensees for a change. Afterall we've got to get screwed by the smoking ban next which all the trade bodies and Pubco's rolled over for. Strange how Non of the spokespersons have commented about the ONS report about 65% wanting choice, something that Freedom to Choose were clearly right about."

Ian Bantham​ via email 14/07/2006"Just a small point for these "scrutiny councils" to answer. How can "I hold on to" a licence that hasn't be issued yet? I am still waiting for three premises licences and have been advised not to expect any of them before they are due for renewal."

Related topics Licensing law

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