Fears over blanket pub hours curfew

By Ewan Turney & Gemma McKenna

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Gordon brown Local government

Brown: more restrictive measures for pub trade
Brown: more restrictive measures for pub trade
Councils will be able to set a blanket curfew for pub opening hours in designated problem areas under new plans from Gordon Brown. Councillors will also be given the power to instigate a review of a licence themselves.

Councils will be able to set a blanket curfew for pub opening hours in designated problem areas under new plans from Gordon Brown.

Councillors and licensing officers will also be given the power to instigate a review of a licence themselves, rather than wait for local people or police to raise concerns. But flexible opening hours would remain.

Details of the planned changes have now emerged following Gordon Brown's vow to "ban 24-hour drinking" at yesterday's Labour Party Conference. Both changes would require primary legislation.

"We will give councils the powers to impose a complete blanket ban on 24 hour licences in a particular area — such as a street, city centre, or the whole of the local authority area," a DCMS spokesman said.

"Councils will still make the majority of licensing decisions on opening hours on a case-by-case basis, but we accept that there are times where disorder cannot be attributed to individual premises.

"So we are giving local authorities the power to limit late opening in whole areas where necessary.

"We will also introduce a new power to make it easier and faster for councils to restrict or remove individual pub and club licences where there are problems."

The Government has also caved in to requests from councillors to have the power to call a licence review themselves.

"We accept the arguments put to us by local government that councillors should be able to call for reviews without having to wait for a resident or the police to make a complaint. "This change will make it easier for licensing authorities to bring problem premises to review.

"The Government recognises the real concerns of many communities about drink-related disorder and anti-social behaviour. We are determined to make sure that local authorities have all the powers they need to deal with it.

"The licensing act has done a great deal to make it easier for local residents and councils to deal with pub-related nuisance and disorder, and the number of 24-hour licences remains low. But we recognise that concerns still exist about drink-related disorder and anti social behaviour, and are determined to act.

"Flexible licensing hours remain. We are not bringing back conditioned hours set by central Government.

"There will now be a full consultation period on the proposals."


Licensing expert Peter Coulson slammed the proposals. "This is posturing. What about existing 24-hour licences for hotels, which cause no trouble at all? Or dedicated business premises, such as the BBC?

"The power for councils to call for reviews themselves is worrying — we could see Oldham all over the place as a result.

"Giving councillors their own power when neither the police nor residents have objected is stepping over the original policy line and concentrates power into the hands of the very people who are meant to be impartial and judge an objection on its merits.

"How can you sit in judgement on your own objection?"

'Headline grabbing'

British Beer & Pub Association's director of communications Mark Hastings said: "The bottom line here is there are only 600 pubs and clubs with 24 hour licences in the whole country - and about 40% of them are in Dorset.

"Furthermore, none of the pubs actually open for 24 hours. If anything this could be more of an issue for supermarkets and off-licenses that have far more 24 hour licences and actually use them.

"In essence, this announcement has more to do with grabbing some headlines in the effort to capture the vote of middle England."

Not acceptable

Paul Smith, executive director of Noctis, said he did not believe it was acceptable to give councillors the power to call for licensing reviews.

He added: "You've only got to see the instances around the country where councillors are looking to make a name for themselves to realise that this is not necessarily the best idea."

He also hit out at giving councils new powers to impose blanket curfews on licensed venues, saying they needed to "negotiate with the trade" on opening hours.

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