A new survey by the LGA showed nearly 90% of council health chiefs want a public health objective included in a revamped Licensing Act.
Under current rules, local councils can only listen to - but not act on - expert health-related evidence when considering licensing applications. The LGA says this leaves authorities “powerless to use public health grounds to veto new premises wishing to sell alcohol”.
The LGA said the public health funding issues make it even more important for Government to ensure local authorities have the same powers as those in Scotland which have been able to consider all health implications - such as hospital admissions and local addiction levels - in relation to licensing applications since 2005. Councils are also calling for greater access to NHS and crime data to help create ‘alcohol harm’ maps.
The group said a public health criteria would give councils “greater power to protect local communities from the spread of alcohol outlets and irresponsible promotions, make greater use of indicators of long-term health harm and reduce NHS costs”.
Cllr Tony Page, licensing spokesman on the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Obviously councils are not seeking powers to refuse every application - the social benefits of moderate drinking are well documented - but it would certainly allow them to take a more balanced view in line with their other priorities such as creating vibrant and safe town centres and protecting people from harm.
“Councils can listen to health evidence, but are powerless to refuse, new licences on public health grounds. Then after granting permission, they will have less money to spend on prevention schemes such as tackling alcohol misuse.
“Alcohol is a significant public health issue in many areas and having new licensing powers to protect and improve public health would allow councils to fully take into account the social and health impacts on their local communities as well as help reduce NHS costs.”
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, LGA community wellbeing spokesperson, said: “Councils want to help people live healthier lives and tackle the harm caused by excessive drinking.
“The widespread availability of alcohol is not helping the 1.6 million adults in England who have an alcohol addiction and the associated treatment costs picked up by local authorities.