It has called for councils to be given the powers to consider the public health impact of licensing decisions to protect communities from harm, reduce NHS costs and save lives.
This is not the first time that the idea of a public health objective has been put forward by health bodies including the LGA. It has consistently been opposed by trade bodies.
In 2017, Public Health England published findings on the ‘theoretical public health licensing objective.’
Public health objective
In the latest call the LGA wants to see the Licensing Act updated to include a public health objective and allow for action where premises fail to protect the health of their communities. It also wants councils to get greater access to NHS data, including hospital admissions and ambulance call-out details to assist decision making.
Councils currently consider four issues when deciding whether to grant licences – the prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; prevention of public nuisance; and protection of children from harm.
The LGA argues that adding a public health objective to the Licensing Act would place a legal requirement on businesses to think about public health issues and give councils long-term tools to act on public health risks.
Protect public health
“The last year has shown us the importance of businesses taking measures to protect public health, yet currently councils are specifically discouraged from using the Licensing Act to consider public health issues,” said Nesil Caliskan, chair of the LGA Safer and Stronger Communities Board.
“Councils want to support businesses and enable them to be successful, but they also have a duty to protect their communities from infection and ill-health.
“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.”
He added that councils do not want powers to refuse every application. But being able to consider the public health impact of new licensed premises would allow them to take a more “balanced view.”