One of the points where the coalition reached agreement fairly easily was around the need for reform of the 2003 Licensing Act, that was the one which became shorthand for 24/7 drinking (though the number of 24 licenses are very few indeed).
So now they’re having a truncated consultation (6 weeks in the middle of the summer holiday as opposed to the normal 12 weeks) so that come the autumn they can roll back the state, or as they would have it:
Central Government will no longer be the primary driver for reducing and addressing the problems of alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour. Local authorities and local communities will have a greater say in what happens in their local area and individuals will become increasingly responsible for their own actions. The Government is committed to challenging the assumption that the only way to change people’s behaviour is through adding to rules and regulations. In future, solutions to address alcohol-related problems will be found locally, and by encouraging individuals to take responsibility for their own actions.
Whether government should be able to wriggle off the hook of having a coherent alcohol strategy is something I’ll leave to one side because in fact a lot of what is proposed in the consultation looks like the sort of thing that I would have wanted when I was a councillor trying to reduce the impact of pubs and bars clientèle on the residents of Blackheath Village.
For example the paper proposes to give local authorities the right to initiate a review of a license and suggests that applicants be asked to think about the impact of their business on the local community and how they might mitigate any less pleasant ones. It makes what I think are sensible reforms about who in a community is able to make representations – reducing restrictions around geographical location and allowing groups like school governors to make representations.
They also suggesting that the health service should be allowed to make representations about license applications – providing data about A&E visits that can be tied to a particular premises, or pointing out hot spots which generate local violence.
Government also want to know whether they should add to the list of considerations that councillors use to determine an application so that preventing harm to health becomes something that they are able to consider. I think this would be welcome, particularly when and if local government starts playing a lead roll around the commissioning of public health services.
If you think these things look like the sort of sensible reforms that should be supported then you might want to respond to the consultation ahead of the 8 September deadline.