Health boards get say on licensing

By Ewan Turney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Licensing License

Bill is set to change licensing laws
Bill is set to change licensing laws
Authorities will be able to take into consideration the impact of licensing on public health, under new Government plans to overhaul licensing. The...

Authorities will be able to take into consideration the impact of licensing on public health, under new Government plans to overhaul licensing.

The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill, published today confirms the Government's plans for licensing.

But there is no mention of the promised below cost ban on the sale of alcohol in supermarkets.

It said it would give people greater control over licensing from next year "as the government moves to reclaim high streets for sensible law abiding drinkers".

Primary Care Trusts and Health Boards will be listed as a responsible authority under the act, which means they can object to licences and call for a licence review.

A late night levy to pay for policing is also included. There is no mention of the size of the levy, which will be left to local authorities. They can also decide if there should be exemptions or reductions for some venues, likely to be if they have Best Bar None status or similar accreditation.

Measures include:

• New powers to stop premises selling alcohol late at night and punish those that persistently sell alcohol to children with fines of up to £20,000

• Everyone will be given the chance to comment on individual licensing applications - not just those living close to the premises

• Health bodies will become a responsible authority

• Charge for late-night licences to pay for extra policing

• Suspend licences if fees are not paid

• Scrapping bureaucratic and unused alcohol disorder zones

• A commitment to review the mandatory licensing code within 12 months of its introduction to assess its impact and any unnecessary burdens on business

• Licensing policies to be reviewed every five instead of three years

Reclaim the streets

"The introduction of 24 hour licensing promised a continental-style 'café-culture' which has not materialised — instead we see drunkenness, violence and anti-social behaviour and too many of our town and city centres are now considered 'no go' areas," said minister for crime prevention James Brokenshire.

"We're not saying every pub and club is a problem, we know it's only a minority that drive crime and disorder. But it's now time that local communities are put in charge and allowed to reclaim our high streets for sensible law-abiding drinkers.

"This package of measures will reverse the failed experiment that was the relaxation of licensing act and ensure local people have the power to make their pub and local high street a place they want to visit."

Unintended consequences

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: "We understand the Government's wish to give local councils a greater role in the licensing process — but several of the proposals would increase the red tape that has been so damaging to Britain's pubs in recent years.

"The Government acknowledges that the majority of licensed premises are well-run. This should be reflected in action taken by local licensing authorities, but our fear is that the unintended consequences of these changes will close more pubs.

"The Government has listened when it comes to removing the right of appeal, and the three-yearly review of licensing policies is to be extended to five years. Yet overall, these measures are designed to tackle a small minority of premises in the on-trade, when the Government could achieve more by ensuring that the huge range of existing laws are used sensibly.

"A new night-time levy would add to cost for pubs without recognising that problem behaviour increasingly results from people drinking at home before they go out. Increased licensing fees without a national cap will hit pubs hard. Health services are to be made 'responsible authorities', which will create more bureaucracy for a hard-pressed NHS. Licensees will also have to provide a range of new information on their local area when they make applications.

"The Licensing Act has only been in place for five years, yet we have already had several major reforms. In that time, over 6,000 pubs have closed, and more and more alcohol sales, nearly 70 per cent, are now in shops and supermarkets.

"When it comes to tackling the tiny minority of problem premises and those that misuse alcohol, more legislation and red tape is not the answer."

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