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Government forges ahead with changes to licensing regime

December 13th, 2010 by Louise Humphreys

Posted In: Licensing

Tags: licensing, alcohol

Following consultation (see earlier post on this topic), the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill currently before Parliament clearly indicates the government's intention to press ahead with the introduction of late night levies whilst at the same time significantly widening of the scope of who can comment on licensing applications and a reducing the evidential burden on authorities.

The main provisions of the Bill relevant to the licensing regime include:

  • Greater powers for licensing authorities to remove or refuse licences by enabling them to fulfil the same functions as existing responsible authorities and to communities to make representations in relation to licensing decisions or call for a review of licensed premises.
  • Removal of the test of 'vicinity' from the 2003 Licensing Act. Everyone - not just those living close to premises - will have the option of commenting on licensing applications, so long as the representations relate to the licensing objectives and are not frivolous or vexatious
  • A doubling in the maximum fine for premises which persistently sell alcohol to children to £20,000. The period of suspensions which can be imposed on such premises will be increased
  • A reduction in the evidential burden on licensing authorities and the police when making decisions under the 2003 Licensing Act
  • Greater flexibility for licensing authorities in making early morning restriction orders. "This means they will be able to make such orders for the whole, or part, of their areas for a period of any duration between midnight and 6 am, and will be able to impose different restrictions on different days"
  • Greater flexibility in relation to the scrutiny and utility of temporary event notices. The police and local authorities exercising environmental health functions will be able to object to such a notice on the basis of all the licensing objectives in the 2003 Licensing Act. Licensing authorities will be able to impose conditions on a temporary event notice in limited circumstances
  • The addition of Primary Care Trusts or Local Health Boards in Wales as responsible authorities. This means licensing authorities must consult with them before determining or revising its statement of licensing policy. It is the first time these bodies will have had a say in licensing processes
  • Licensing authorities will be able to suspend a premises licence or club premises certificate for non-payment of an annual fee
  • Powers for councils to charge premises that supply alcohol as part of the late night economy a levy to pay for extra policing. Licensing authorities will be able to impose the levy on such premises for a period of any duration between midnight and 6 am. Some premises may be given an exemption or discount. At least 70% of the funds generated by the levy will be paid to the police and crime commissioner. The levy will also fund bodies that operate measure to address the effect of alcohol related crime and disorder.
  • Scrapping of alcohol disorder zones
  • A commitment to review the mandatory code within 12 months of its introduction to assess its impact and any unnecessary burdens on business.

However, the government has decided - following the consultation - against introducing earlier proposals to change the appeals process. It has not introduced a ban on below cost sales yet either.