The Home Office has published its Modern Crime Prevention Strategy, highlighting alcohol-related crime as a major area of concern.
A three-pronged approach is to be used to tackle alcohol-related disorder by further extending police powers, improving local intelligence and working in local partnership.
The strategy has also proposed that a group review intervention power (GRIP) be introduced to allow licensing conditions to be added to groups of premises in a specific location. The plan also includes extending Local Alcohol Action Areas (LAAAs), which bring together local agencies to work together on alcohol issues.
It has also suggested that there be more flexibility for councils on the introduction of late night levies, that cumulative impact policies to be put on a statutory footing and civilian police staff be given the right of entry into premises.
Industry leaders raised concern about a number of suggestions in the paper.
“The introduction of a group review power is a very blunt tool, will unfairly penalise venues and undermine existing partnership schemes. This unnecessary step is being introduced without any prior warning or consultation with the trade,” said Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) chief executive Kate Nicholls.
She welcomed increased transparency around the late-night levy but said there was concern this would encourage greater access to a tax on pubs and bars.
“The recent IAS report into the Licensing Act dispelled the myth that the Act is overly permissive and highlighted areas in which local authorities were not utilising their existing powers. The ALMR is repeating its message to the Home Office. Local authorities are in possession of powers that they are not employing effectively,” she added.
The British Beer & Pub Association chief executive, Brigid Simmonds, welcomed the news on partnership working but added: “The proposed group review intervention powers are also a concern.
"There are already sufficient licensing powers and this is a potential departure from decisions being considered on their merits, and on a case-by-case basis – a fundamental principle of the current licensing system.
“We haven’t supported the introduction of late night levies, which is a tax on pubs, so making them easier to introduce is not something we welcome, given the success of partnership working.”
Other industry responses include:
Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association
“The WSTA fully supports the extended roll out of LAAAs and we are committed to continuing to encourage the UK's well documented change in drinking culture through the work of Community Alcohol Partnerships and the Retail of Alcohol Standards Group where appropriate.
“A number of concerns have been raised, however, regarding the new proposals around Cumulative Impact Policies, revisions to the Late Night Levy and further powers of review. These have the potential to penalise responsible retailers and heap yet more bureaucracy on them at a time when trading conditions are very tough indeed. We hope and expect that there will be meaningful consultation with the trade over these proposals and that these concerns are clearly understood and considered.'