I am reluctant to say, ‘we told you so’ but the fact is, we did just that when the New Labour Government introduced 24 hour drinking under the guise of the Licensing Act 2003. The idea was to introduce a Cafe culture, but sadly all it did was introduce a problem across the country.
Here in Wirral we have witnessed first hand how the Act has favoured applicants and disadvantaged local residents, just look at the Saughall Hotel, set in a conservation area they have a license that allows them to stay open until 3am! Crazy…. We have seen other premises given longer hours, some of them not causing a problem, but many do.
I was therefore delighted with the announcement made today by the Home Secretary, Theresa May MP which will give local people a real say in what happens in their communities. I have appended below the summary of her statement:
Proposals for tough new measures to crack down on problem premises and more powers for local communities to influence licensing decisions were unveiled by the Government today.
• making it easier for communities to have their say on local licensing by allowing local authorities to consider the views of the wider community, not just those living close to premises;
• taking tough action against underage drinking by doubling the fine to £20,000 for those found persistently selling alcohol to children, extending orders that see premises closed on a voluntary basis to a minimum of seven days and bringing in automatic licence reviews for these problem premises – which can see licences revoked;
• charging a fee for late-night licences to pay for the cost of extra policing and scrapping ineffective, bureaucratic and unpopular Alcohol Disorder Zones;
• ensuring policing and health concerns are fully considered so that the impact of licensing on crime and disorder or public health can be fully taken into account when assessing licence applications;
• increasing licence fees so that local councils can cover costs linked to enforcement leaving premises to pay rather than the local taxpayer;
• tightening up rules for temporary licences by limiting the number of Temporary Event Notices that can be applied for in any one year – these are often used to get around the restrictions of applying for a permanent licence; and
• introducing a ban the sale of below cost alcohol and consulting on how this can be achieved.
Home Secretary Theresa May said:
“The benefits promised by the 24 hour drinking & café culture’ have failed to materialise and in its place we have seen an increase in the number of alcohol related incidents and drink-fuelled crime and disorder. “We know that the majority of pubs and bars are well run business but the Government believes that the system needs to be rebalanced in favour of the local communities they serve with tougher action taken to crack down on the small number of premises who cause problems.”
Last year there were almost one million violent crimes that were alcohol related, with a fifth of all violent incidents taking place in or around a pub or club, and almost two-thirds of these happen at night. As well as this the total cost of alcohol-related crime and disorder to the taxpayer is estimated to be between £8bn and £13bn.