The LGA welcomed the appointment of a House of Lords Select Committee to investigate the effectiveness of the Licensing Act 2003 and the insight that the Committee’s work has provided in a number of areas.
- The LGA welcomed the appointment of a House of Lords Select Committee to investigate the effectiveness of the Licensing Act 2003 and the insight that the Committee’s work has provided in a number of areas.
- However, we do not support the Committee’s main conclusion and recommendation, that the Licensing Act 2003 is fundamentally flawed and needs a radical overhaul, including the abolition of local authority licensing committees.
- The Licensing Act 2003 provides a sound framework that allows for local decision making to protect the public, support local businesses and enables councils to take action against mismanaged premises. Although there is a need for some reform to allow councils to effectively resource, scrutinise, and monitor the licensing system, those most involved in working with the Act do not want to see further major upheaval of the system.
- We are pleased that the Government’s response to the Committee’s report did not accept the recommendation to merge the licensing and planning systems but instead focuses on how coordination between licensing and planning committees can be improved.
- The Licensing Act 2003 Committee’s report noted LGA research showing that the Act is underfunded as a result of fees being fixed nationally in 2005, when the Act was first introduced. This means local government subsidises this work by £10.3 million each year. The Committee accepted the argument for localisation of fees, and we are calling on the Government to localise licensing fees in line with its earlier commitments to do so. However, as an interim measure the Government must uprate the existing nationally set fees from their 2005 level.
- Following the publication of both the report from the Licensing Act 2003 Committee and the Government’s response to the report, the LGA is disappointed that the Government have not made a commitment to introduce a health objective or localise licensing fees in the immediate future.
- The Act should be amended to include a public health objective. The need for this objective is reinforced by an LGA survey which showed 89 per cent of Directors of Public Health support its inclusion. We were pleased to note the House of Commons Health Committee supported the inclusion of a public health objective in planning and licensing law. However, we are disappointed that the Licensing Act 2003 Committee and the Government have not taken up this recommendation.
- The LGA does not support the Committee’s recommendation that the Late Night Levy should be scrapped. We have previously called for councils to have the ability to define specific parts of their areas that the Late Night Levy should apply to, and supported this change being introduced by the Policing and Crime Act 2017. This change should be given time to take effect, although we recognise that some areas will prefer to use alternative approaches to the levy.