Trade fears over licence fee hike and people power

By MA news team

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Public health License

Griffin: fears over more power to the people
Griffin: fears over more power to the people
The trade has expressed fears over the size of any proposed hike in licence costs and being the target once again of Government action. Home...

The trade has expressed fears over the size of any proposed hike in licence costs and being the target once again of Government action.

Home Secretary Theresa May today outlined her proposals for an overhaul of the licensing regime​, which included a licence fee hike, giving residents more powers of objection and allowing authorities to raise concerns over public health consequences.

Licensing expert Peter Coulson said a rise in licensing fee costs would cause deep concern to the trade. "The Local Government Association has been complaining from the start of the new licensing laws (in 2005) that the fees do not cover their costs.

"But the fees are already pretty high and any increase would cause uproar in the trade, especially at the moment in the current difficult trading environment."

Coulson also warned that extending the "voluntary" closure period for two sales to under-18s from 48 hours to seven days represented a "massive penalty". If premises opt to close "voluntarily" they avoid prosecution.

On allowing public health considerations, Coulson said May would have to add it as a fifth licensing objective as it is in Scotland.

In Scotland, the objective is "protecting and improving public health". He said: "I don't see how the introduction of a single licence can be shown to impact on public health unless they use it as a reason not to grant a 24-hour licence."

May also said she wants to restrict the number of Temporary Events Notices — currently set at 50 per licensee but only twelve per venue. "This could impact on village halls," warned Coulson.

Victor Meldrew syndrome

Nick Griffin, owner of the the ten-strong Pleisure Pubs estate in London and Brighton, voiced concern over giving residents more power. "It could be an absolute nightmare," he said. "It is the Victor Meldrow syndrome. Some people busy themselves worrying and complaining."

He also took issue with Home Office stats on night-time related crime. The Home Office said last year there were almost one million violent crimes that were alcohol related, with a fifth of all violent incidents taking place in or around a pub or club.

"That means 80% were not in and around pubs and clubs. They are determined to hit us and not the off-trade."

Other licensees hit out at yet more red tape heading their way. "It's just another piece of legislation adding another nail in the coffin of the licensing trade," said Alan Vaughan of freehold the Countryman Inn in Shipley, West Sussex.

"There are concerns about selling alcohol to underage children so there should be a big fine but there has to be a bit of an ease up of heavy handed legislation brought in. It's a constant burden.

"The public health proposal is over the top. There's enough legislation in place for people to object without affecting people's livlihood."

David Heyes of Enterprise Inns lease the Garsdale in Bury, Lancashire said: "It sounds like bureaucracy has gone mad again. They are trying to justify escalating prices.

"Giving residents more power is worrying — residents will end up managing our businesses. I totally agree with the underage sales fine. It is a problem and we've got to deal with it but it will push kids into Tesco."

24-hour drinking issue

Meanwhile, the British Beer and Pub Association voiced its support for the review but took issue with May over her reference to the "24-hour drinking cafe culture".

Chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: "Pinning the consultation to 24 hour drinking is a bit like tilting at windmills. 24 hour drinking is and always has been an enormous urban myth — great for headline writers, but far from reality.

"There's not a single pub in the country that is open for 24 hours, or anything close to 24 hours. Pubs are open for an extra hour on a Friday and Saturday night, which has given people and communities a bit more flexibility and choice in their leisure time than they had before.

"Only four per cent of all licenses are 24 hour licences and nearly 80 per cent of those are hotels and supermarkets — who of course now sell 70 per cent of all the alcohol we drink today. The rest are mainly nightclubs."

Simmonds also hit out on the six-week consultation period. "As is typical of our wonderful Government we have a relatively short consultation period right over the summer period, so we have to make sure our voices are heard."

Related topics Licensing law Legislation

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