CABINET CALL: By Coun Malcolm Chandler
In my previous column I wrote about issues our Licensing team were facing, focusing on reviews brought over illegal sales in off licences.
As a result of evidence presented to the Licensing committee, some seven licences were recently revoked.
It is the democratic right of licence holders to challenge these decisions in court and during the time it takes to be discharged by the magistrates, the premises can continue to sell alcohol.
I strongly believe that Licensing authorities should be given increased powers to deal with this issue.
Licensing legislation is complicated and there are many misconceptions over what authorities can do.
Under the Licensing Act 2003, South Holland District Council is required to grant an alcohol licence unless representations are received from interested parties or responsible authorities such as the police and Trading Standards.
Previously strong emphasis was required of applicants to demonstrate there was a need for new premises – but that disappeared with the current legislation.
Since last year we have been looking at the prospect of introducing a Cumulative Impact Policy (CIP) which would add to the Licensing Authority’s powers to refuse licence applications.
Back in 2013 a full review of this opportunity was carried out with a view to introducing a CIP in Spalding.
Police analysed the number of off licences and alcohol-related antisocial behaviour incidents between 2008 and 2012. It was concluded that there was insufficient evidence to show a clear link between the two factors.
Since then several other initiatives have been introduced to tackle the root cause of the problem.
These included the Safer Spalding Scheme designed to promote responsible alcohol retailing strongly supported by the local Chamber of Trade, Operation Trunk to enforce the Designated Public Place Order (DPPO) and Street Pastors to help tackle the problem of street drinking. The matter has been kept under review and the team are again working closely with the local Police Inspector and the Police Licensing Unit to assist with supplying information relating to alcohol-related crime over the last 12 months.
As part of that process we have encouraged the public to report incidents to the Police.
When I last met with our local MP to discuss these issues he pledged his support to the Cumulative Impact process. We shall be seeking his support when the evidence has been collected for review.
Furthermore, we shall be seeking support for the reintroduction of ‘Need’ into the Licensing requirements. Going forward we will look to have a legally more robust approach to alcohol licensing, giving greater powers locally to Licensing Authorities allowing them to continue to work for the general wellbeing of the communities and to ensure that those licensed premises in the district operate legally and responsibly.