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Thursday, 1 November 2007

Licencing horlicks in Ceredigion

No, there is no legislation in place to licence horlicks but its too good a title to let go and it will hopefully draw your attention! I spent part of the morning discussing licencing policy in Ceredigion, the Licencing Act 2003 is fast becoming an unwieldy monolith when it comes to protecting communities from the drinking public. Since I am not a teetotaller I have to include myself in that category - but of the benign not the rowdy aggressive variety. For the uninitiated you can find more information on the Licencing Act from the Department for Culture Media & Sport .
Anyway, the problem lies with unacceptable behaviour at unearthly hours of the day by patrons of the pubs. Responsibilities for dealing with this are split between the Police and Ceredigion Council, and there lies the first problem. The Council expects the Police to play their role and the Police contend that its the Council's responsibility, the consequence, nothing is done. It can be legitimately argued that the Police should contol rowdy behaviour on the streets, but whether they have the willingness and/or resources to do this is another issue. As one Councillor wryly stated "...expect a hefty rise in the Police precept to pay for this next year..." . Its not rocket science to have a protocol on who does what and if there is a persistent problem then the Police themselves can instigate a review of the licence granted for premises selling alcohol.
That leads nicely to the granting of licences. This is done by a panel of three Councillors advised by legal and licencing officers, we listen to the details of the application, comments by the applicant, comments by objectors, comments by the Police and then come to a decision with conditions attached. Conditions have to be reasonable and relevant but once in place they stay unless changed by magistrates. A decision is only as good as the evidence provided and following the granting of a licence, its after effects cannot be considered. This is where the Act is at fault, communities have no right of challenge to licencing conditions once set, and councillors cannot add retrospective conditions to deal with problems. The Council has decided to lobby the WLGA and the DCMS to make it possible for the Licencing Act to be used to deal with alcohol related unsociable behaviour. Lets hope all other authorities do something similar.
In addition, the Licencing Act cannot be used to make pub landlords clean the streets of fag ends outside their premises, but it can be used to make the owners of kebab shops clean the streets outside theirs. Inconsistency? Yes, but not in the eye of the law as the legislation about smoking in public places post dates the licencing legislation and is therefore not relevant.
This post is a little bit of a legal blowing off of steam, I now feel much better.

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