Will multi-million pound cuts to police budgets be bad news for pubs?

By Emily Sutherland

- Last updated on GMT

Some officers have warned they will be able to control the late-night economy in the same way
Some officers have warned they will be able to control the late-night economy in the same way

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Headlines have been dominated by news of a further wave of police cuts, with some critics warning forces will be stretched to breaking point. But what impact will the cuts- which stretch into the hundreds of millions-have on pubs?

It seems certain that there will be fewer officers around to watch over the late-night economy. South Devon police commander Glenn Mayhew recently warned Torbay councillors that there would be less officers available to keep an eye on the area’s pubs and bars, due the to the £39 million budget cuts facing Devon and Cornwall police.

According to local newspaper the Torbay Herald Express​, the inspector told the council that he will be unable to commit the same level of resources to controlling the late night economy following the cuts.

“We used to police the night-time economy with a number of police officers-Friday and Saturday- but I won’t be able to do that in the future.”

His concerns have been shared by South Wales assistant chief constable Richard Lewis, who told the BBC​ that controlling the high concentration of venues in Cardiff has become ‘more difficult’ with fewer officers due to reduced police budgets.


Jean Irving, joint chair of the police chiefs council licensing working group, told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser ​about her worries that cuts could result in licensing officers ‘falling off the radar’ - something that is already starting to happen in some areas.

“It’s a big concern. We could lose the specialism of licensing, which could have a big knock-on effect. We’re already hearing of some forces dispensing of their uniformed enforcement officers. The Licensing Act is a big entity; it’s very detailed and requires a good background and understanding. It’s expecting a lot of a police officer to know everything in the same detail as licensing officers.

“We know that if we don’t work closely with the small minority of premises that cause issues the problems get worse. Early intervention is very important and the concern is that when a venue starts to show problems, where normally licensing officers would intervene early and start pulling together action plans, it will get much worse if left to police to intervene. This could lead to people getting hurt and have a big impact on the late-night economy. In the small percentage of operators who just run venues to make money, it could lead to people becoming vulnerable, becoming subject to violence or sexual attack.

“I’m not painting a good picture, but it is a realistic one.”

Officers have warned that with fewer resources, pubs will have to ‘step up’ and look to voluntary schemes like Best Bar None and Purple Flag, as well as initiatives like increased CCTV coverage and breath analysers. 


The budget cuts could also lead to more councils looking to implement late-night levies - although Poppleston Allen partner Jonathan Smith warned any money raised by levies would not go far.

However, cuts may result in policing that is not necessarily worse for pubs, but simply different. South Devon commander Glen Mayhew also said that although he would be unable to commit the same level of resources, the police would find different ways to be in town centres at night.

Night Time Industries Association chair Alan Miller also stressed that cuts could be a good opportunity to re-valuate the relationship between the late-night economy and the police and put a renewed focus on working together.

“It is important that the police and the night time industries get to work together. For sure, experiencing cuts in resources as well as demands to cover a range of additional new areas places enormous pressure on policing and logistics.

“But rather than being a place of high crime, over the last ten years Britain has experienced a decrease in serious crime and more young people than ever before are teetotal. Indeed, there seems to be less crime where the night-time economy is concerned and people’s behaviour patterns are better than ever before. Operators and police should work together without the late-night economy being viewed as a problem.  All cuts mean a drive to be more efficient, but we can be clever together.”


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