Perhaps you are one of the reported 50% of car drivers who don’t know that paper tax disks are being scrapped at the end of this month — replaced with an electronic database of those that have paid their vehicle excise duty.
You are certainly likely to be among the half a million personal licence holders for whom the government plans to abolish the 10-year expiry and renewal process.
As our friends from Poppleston Allen explain, the good news for the majority of you, is that you now won’t face the administration and £62 combined cost of renewing your personal licence.
However, for those of you who were quick off the mark a decade ago with your original personal licence applications, there is every chance that you will have to renew your licence, because it will expire before the Deregulation Bill comes into effect.
The government can’t yet say precisely when that will be — though the clever money is on “some time in spring 2015”.
So if your personal licence expires in March, April or even May, then you’re probably going to need to make a renewal application to ensure you don’t suddenly find yourself unable to sell alcohol.
Plainly this is an unacceptable state of affairs – one that Home Office minister Norman Baker has himself described as “far from ideal” — and it needs to be rectified ASAP.
That means either some kind of amnesty on these early renewals, or at least some clearer instructions and a waiver of the fees.
It wasn’t so long ago that the Government was consulting on the abolition of personal licences altogether as part of its ‘bonfire of red-tape’. Pleasingly on that occasion, Mr Baker and his colleagues listened to the pub trade’s clear message that this would be a retrograde step — that the system worked well, setting a national standard and qualification which are supported by both local authorities and the police.
The intentions behind the scrapping of the renewals process are good. The decision to do so is itself laudable. But because it came so late, and so close to the moment when the first licence renewals are due, it risks being a messy and admin-heavy transition — totally counterproductive to the original aims of deregulation.
This is a problem of the Government’s own making, and honest licensees should not be disadvantaged by its associated uncertainties and costs. Neither should they be penalised if they fall foul of a very imperfect process.
It cannot be beyond the wit of the Home Office to sort this out, can it?