Tuesday, 4 February 2014

More Power Please

Isn't it funny how those that seek to limit what you do dress it up as "much needed reform",  "a sensible tidying up", a need to be flexible to address local concerns" and ominously, to improve public health"?  The latest view of the Local Government Association about the future of Licensing calls for a complete throwing out of the current (now declared by them as obsolete) licensing system, which for alcohol, was introduced only 10 years ago.  In fairness to them, they are considering more than just alcohol licences, as taxis, kebab houses, betting shops and more come under their purview and they do make a sensible case for getting rid of multiple licenses for the same business.

To wind back a little, when the Licensing Act 2003 (which became law at midnight 23rd November 2005) transferred the powers previously vested in magistrates to local authorities and by law, from them to Licensing Committees.  The Act laid down several things which must happen, such as Premises Licences which covered the building in which the activity took place and an individual licnce to sell and authorise the sale of alcohol. (I am such a licence holder).

Now comes the bits which allow local discretion.  Four compulsory licensing objectives were set out:
  1. the prevention of crime and disorder,
  2. public safety,
  3. prevention of public nuisance, and
  4. the protection of children from harm
These cover most eventualities in that Licensing Committees can add conditions to the premises licence to limit what the establishment can do to ensure compliance with the objectives.  Thus it is that hours can be limited, noise can be kept down, plastic glasses can be enforced, as well as may other things. I recall on the course which I took, having to learn all about this in order to pass and be awarded my ticket.   There is also an overall "Cumulative Impact Policy" which though not part of the Act, allows Committees to consider whether too many licensed premises in one area might impact on the four objectives.

Can you see much wrong with that?  Well I can't, but our dear local authorities do. Putting aside the need to roll together multiple licenses,  lets turn to pubs.  It was one of the intents of the original Act to make the granting of licences less dependent on local whim and enshrine within a set of objectives, a presumption of "Yes" to applications. Local bureaucrats now feel they should be able to alter these to include taking into account the health impacts in an area, decide locally about withdrawal of licenses on yet to be specified grounds and apply local fees to all of this which will no longer be standard. More worrying would be the introduction of a health provision (which already applies in Scotland and reads "Protecting and improving public health."

Taken as a worst case scenario, where alcohol is concerned they would be able to act on any local whim, (however unreasonable) , increase fees, decide on what affects our health - whatever that might mean - and under the guise of "allowing businesses to flourish" and "hand communities the protection they deserve" ride roughshod over anyone they care to. (I guess they could also do the same for kebab shops and taxis.)

Now it may well be that the LGA is on to something here, but am I alone in thinking they would like to be able to put their fingers more deeply into more pies and charge us more for the privilege? We really need to watch out that this isn't just a subtly disguised bid for money and power. 

The LGA  report "Open for business. Rewiring licensing." is on line here   Blame the LGA for the poor quality photo.


Cooking Lager said...

The anti alcohol lobby have been winning for a while. Lets hope the beard club wake up sooner rather than later.

py said...

They're too busy prescribing the exact acceptable level of cloudiness in beer that people are allowed to enjoy, Cookie.

If CAMRA want to do anything useful, it should push for Alcohol Concern to be immediately abolished.

Tandleman said...

py: Don't be so bloody daft.

Cooking Lager said...

The beard club, lead by our lad Tand, made a positive step in reversing their position on minimum pricing. Unfortunately much rhetoric is still of the "irresponsible supermarkets" variety.

To stand up to the anti alcohol lobby requires the acceptance that an adult is responsible for their own actions and the off trade is no more responsible or irresponsible than the on trade.

Adopting a position that infantilizes adults in the hope that kyboshing the off trade will benefit pubs will only have the effect of endorsing actions that will come down as hard on pub drinkers as those sitting by the telly at home.

py said...

What is CAMRA's stance on this government enforced price fixing arrangement on low price alcohol that is being reported by the newspapers? Is it on the side of the hard-up consumer or the supermarkets?

py said...

They abolished their version of alcohol concern in Australia, and they're even more socially prescriptive than us generally.

Tandleman said...

"What is CAMRA's stance on this government enforced price fixing arrangement on low price alcohol that is being reported by the newspapers?"

No idea.

I agree that Alcohol Concern are lying fakes and should be abolished.

Curmudgeon said...

Alcohol Concern shouldn't be abolished, but should stop receiving any public funding.

On the general point, "local authorities are making a bid for money and power." You'd never have expected that!

IMV transferring licensing from magistrates to councils has proved to be a seriously bad idea, as they increasingly seek to meddle in how the licensed trade is run.

Tandleman said...

I am not sure I agree with you about magistrates being better Mudgie. It was too hit and miss now. Now there is at least a presumption of "yes". in law.

Cooking Lager said...

What there should be Tand is a presumption of beard count in law. Basically if someone wants to open a pub near me, they can piss off. I don't need rough sorts, aggro, noise and reduced house prices.

If the fun pub disco poof house bistro is next door to Mudge, yourself or any beardy that likes pubs then it opens with a 24 hour music, booze and fighting licence.

David Attenbeer said...

A friend and I are in the process of applying to turn a disused industrial building in the centre of our town into a craft beer bar and we're even having to pay to talk to a councillor. If we get the planning permission to make it a bar, we're still under no guarantee that we'll get a licence.

Dealing with any council is such a massively capricious and soul destroying process.