Licensing Act – Consultation.
The Licensing Act 2003. A piece of legislation that was meant to simplify and bring licensing up to date. This piece of legislation can trace its history back to the 1751 Gin Act.
Today, over at County Hall the Licensing Act Committee met to discuss the latest Government consultation on this Act. There are many problems with the current Act. The de-regulation of licensing hours is just one. When it was first introduced it was sold as allowing the UK to adopt a more European cafe culture to drinking. This has failed. History will tell you that Britain has a long history with drinking. In reality the de-regulation of hours means premises have just stayed open later.
That is not entirely bad in principle, but one of the main problems to this is what happens when people leave these premises in the early hours of the morning and the disturbance it causes to local residents. When it was 12-1 in the morning people could still get a fair amount of sleep, but its a little hard when you are kept awake until 4 am. Add the smoking ban, and you have a real problem to noise and disturbance. From my experience most landlords try to mitigate against this, but it still causes problems. There is also huge budget implications to the Emergency Services in dealing with alcohol related problems.
What we discussed today was how we could improve the Act from the view of the Council. At present we have no real teeth prior to it going to a formal hearing. In fact the Licensing Authority does not even have the power to call for a review on a troublesome premises. It has to rely on the Police, Public, Environmental Health and Trading Standards. It would be easier if we had those powers. We also believed that City, Town and Parish Councils are made interested parties to any applications. Currently they are not.
We also discussed many other issues like a different fees depending on how late you stay open. Currently its the same price if you shut at 11pm or 5am. Also discussed were fixed fines for infringements, the tightening up of who can object to a Temporary Event Notice (T.E.N.) and other issues that would make the Act more workable. This Consultation ends on the 8th of Sept, when the Government will collate and hopefully adopt these points (or at least some).