'Licensing changes could drown pubs'

By Ewan Turney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Licensing authorities Alcoholic beverage

Simmonds: new approach to tackling problem drinking is needed
Simmonds: new approach to tackling problem drinking is needed
The British Beer and Pub Association has proposed a number of "positive alternatives" to the Government's planned overhaul of licensing.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) has proposed a number of "positive alternatives" to the Government's planned overhaul of licensing laws and called for a new approach to tackling problem drinking.

The BBPA warned that many of the Government's proposals risk drowning pubs in higher costs and red tape and wants a more positive approach that uses the huge array of existing laws sensibly.

The BBPA said it would:

• Make licensing officers the responsible authority rather than the licensing authorities believing it would speed up the process and help protect its independence. Current government proposals would see licensing authorities acting as both judge and jury.

• End the obligation on local councils to conduct costly, wholesale reviews of their licensing policies every three years, only consulting on changes where local people have raised real concerns. With over 300 local licensing authorities nationwide, this could save millions of council taxpayers cash.

• Clarify who can make representations under the act, by making the definition of 'vicinity' the same as that in the Gambling Act, broadening its scope while keeping the process open and manageable.

• Support plans to introduce measures to prevent below-cost selling, provided that cost cannot be set at a local level, and with further consideration needed on how this might work in practice.

The BBPA has expressed particular concerns over plans to remove the right of appeal for pubs in the licensing process, letting police evidence go unchallenged and the late night levy.

It said an entirely new approach to tackling alcohol misuse is needed. "Licensed premises would still appear to be the main focus of Government policy on alcohol, and yet there has never been a greater range of powers available to tackle irresponsible operators," it said in its consultation submission.

"It is time for a change of emphasis. More needs to be done to promote effective partnership working at local level, improved management of public spaces, efficient enforcement, and tackle irresponsible and anti-social behaviour on the part of individuals."

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: "We are four-square behind the Government in its objective to tackle binge-drinking and alcohol-related crime, which is bad for the country and bad for business. We want to work with Government, but fundamental change needs a longer and deeper conversation than what the Government is now proposing.

"Some of the measures, while well-intentioned, will have the effect of imposing extra costs and regulations on well-run pubs while barely touching the real problem. Almost 70%, and rising, of alcohol consumed in the UK is bought from the off-trade, yet it is licensed premises that bear the brunt of these proposed changes.

"Pubs are a vital part of the economic and social fabric of communities up and down Britain, and the industry is slowly recovering from recession. New burdens of the sort proposed would be a big blow. The Government needs to think again on some of these proposals and we want to work with them on this."

Related topics Licensing law

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