21/07/2011 3:23 pm
Rebalancing or a Further Tip in Local Authority’s Favour
You need be aware of the recent proposed “rebalancing” of the Licensing Act 2003 which has been debated by the Government and is proposed to take effect, later this year. Despite some well argued opposition, the Government is looking to move ahead with the proposals, and allow even further controls to Local Authorities than before.
With the regular media attention given to binge drinking, and a view of the alcohol industry as being a major source of public nuisance, it is little wonder that the Government appears desperate to hand more control to Local Authorities. But is this view accurate or is the industry just a scapegoat? Would it not be more beneficial to hand out stronger powers to Police in dealing with individuals who are drinking irresponsibly and causing nuisance, rather than holding well-run premises responsible?
Handing these extra powers to Local Authorities could prove even more detrimental to an already struggling industry, allowing Authorities opportunities to punish venues and deny applications without having to justify – on a proper evidential basis - their decisions. The start of this style could be seen as early as the introduction of the application for a Minor Variation in July 2009, which allowed Local Authorities the right to refuse applications without giving any reason for doing so. Although initially seen as a cheaper alternative to the full variation application, it could actually work out more expensive, as if refused an Applicant may then have to seek a full variation to achieve a Hearing and an explanation of sorts.
Controls, although necessary, need to be proportionate and properly targeted. A Local Authority might not want any more late-night venues in an area, but do they have a legitimate basis upon which to back up this decision? Any decision that affects the rights of an individual or company to run their business successfully should be justified, and the decision should be backed up by proper evidence. With these new provisions, this might not be the case.
Licensing Law itself does not extend to dealing with the social problems associated with alcohol, such as binge drinking and alcoholism. These are, however, perhaps the areas that we need to be tackling as they lead to the examples of disorder that are heavily relied upon in the media. Alcohol abuse is a massive problem in today’s society but is not one that can be solved by this rebalancing of the Licensing Act, a move that won’t even touch on this pressing issue but only on the livelihoods of people who have chosen to work within this already limping industry.