A consolidated and flexible licensing system

It sounds simple enough. The UK Parliament tends to produce lots of silo legislation that deals with a particular issue of the time. This makes sense as it allows a rapid response to a problem, rather than trying to align it with all other types of legislation. After a while though, it becomes an impenetrable maze of contradictions, exceptions, and inadequacies.

This is now the case with licensing. I have a list of over 120 different types of licence - and this is far from a comprehensive list of licences - and am looking for ways to simplify them; both from the point of view of the applicant who may have to fill in 6 or 7 different forms just to open the most basic of premises, and from the point of view of the enforcer who has to manage all these different licences, remember what exemptions apply when and where, and then apply them in a consistent manner even though the last time this type of licence was issued may have been a number of years ago.

Some...we can simply abolish, or at least cover within another piece of legislation. Licensing the performance of hypnotists is one probable example of this.

But for many others - the majority in fact - the reason these licences were introduced remains as valid today as it did back when they were introduced. We therefore need to look at them from the point of view of the applicant and try to consider which ones will likely need to be done at the same time. For instance, it is  increasingly the case that a premises licensed for alcohol will also want to register as a food premises. Can we join up the forms - at least at the front end - so they can do it all in one go and not duplicate the details they are providing to the council.

It seems, at the moment, that most can be done through this 'front end' approach and councils are free to explore how they do this (although not yet in the above example where alcohol forms are prescribed). Others will require primary legislation though. This is something the LGA is prepared to lobby for, if we can develop robust proposals based on consultation with our members and the businesses with whom they work.

There is a precedent for this. The Licensing Act 1964 was a consolidation act, briging together diverse pieces of licensing law. So it can and has been done. Looking at my list, I think I might be quite a long way from being able to take this to the Safer and Stronger Communities Board, but every journey has to start somewhere.

Along the way, I hope members will support us in our work to simplify things for everybody. If anyone has thoughts on how to improve the system, or if there are any licences that simply aren't needed any more, then please comment here, or e-mail me at ian.leete@local.gov.uk

 

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