Councils "widely divergent" on approach to licensing

By James Wilmore

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Licensing act Metropolitan borough Birmingham Local government act 1972 Bbpa

Huge inconsistencies have been revealed in councils' approaches to the Licensing Act - with some licensees being left drowning in red tape. A survey...

Huge inconsistencies have been revealed in councils' approaches to the Licensing Act - with some licensees being left drowning in red tape.

A survey of more than 100 local authority policies shows some are trying to impose "complex and lengthy" documents while others, sometimes in adjoining local areas, are only a few pages long.

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), which carried out the survey, wants to know why councils are applying the Act in such widely different ways.

It says that some policies contain provisions that are beyond the scope of the Licensing Act, introduced nearly two years ago.

In some areas, licensees applying for variations or new applicants are forced to pay for a solicitor just to get to grips with the detail and how it might affect their business, the BBPA claims.

The lengthy policy of Blaby in Leicestershire, for example, covers issues such as allowing dogs on the premises - and keeping a torch behind the bar.

BBPA chief executive Rob Hayward said: "If councils like Bromsgrove can keep their licensing policy to just seven pages, it is a mystery why others are so long and cover such a vast range of issues - especially when the Act is working well.

"Some councils seem to want to micro-manage their local pubs, yet it was never the intention of the Licensing Act to allow councils to introduce such complexity into their licensing policies.

"Highly detailed guidance and instructions on how to apply for a licence shouldn't be necessary in individual councils, as this is all covered in the Act.

"The 2003 Act was a major cost to pubs. Some of these policies will create future bureaucratic burdens for pub companies and licensees." Some examples of policies:

• Birmingham, Dudley, and Bromsgrove: In the BBPA's analysis of these three adjoining boroughs in the West Midlands, Bromsgrove's policy runs to just seven pages, while neighbouring Birmingham's is six times longer, at 41 pages including appendices. Next-door Dudley, is almost twice as long again, with a whopping 70 pages of detailed policy and appendices for publicans and pub companies to digest.

• Swindon and Vale of White Horse: In the south of England, Swindon's draft policy runs to just 13 pages, while in neighbouring Vale of White Horse, the Council has issued a draft policy running to 88 pages, with appendices.

• Kirklees and Wakefield: In West Yorkshire, the policy of Kirklees weighs in at 32 pages, while adjoining Wakefield runs to 114 pages - one of the longest of any policy in the BBPA's survey of over 100 local councils.

Related topics Licensing law

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