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Personal Licence – to kill? PLH reform and upcoming fee increases…

On 31/10/13 by Jim Cathcart (Policy Manager - Pub Operations)

At a recent meeting of the National Licensing Forum here at Brewers’ Hall, the Home Office gave a very useful update on the upcoming changes to licensing.

A number of these were well known already – Minimum Unit Pricing still remains under consideration but without firm proposals to bring it forward as yet, mandatory licensing conditions are being strengthened especially in regard to irresponsible promotions, the TENs limit is being increased from 12 to 15 a year and personal licence renewals are being scrapped.

On the issue of personal licences, no one involved in the trade could have failed to miss the fact that the Home Office is currently consulting on the removal of the national personal licence requirement, to be replaced with locally-set training conditions. The arguments against the removal of personal licences have been well-rehearsed elsewhere and won’t be detailed here, suffice to say that the entire industry has united in its disapproval of the Home Office’s plans. However, the fact that the Government is willing to deregulate in the area of licensing should not be overlooked – four or five years ago this would have been unimaginable. Whilst personal licences are not a candidate, other areas are ripe for the red tape harvest such as the requirement to advertise in newspapers, the removal of annual ‘registration of interest’ under s.178 of the Licensing Act and a common date for fee payments, which one hopes will be included in the upcoming fees consultation – more on this below.

The mysterious new ‘Community and Ancillary Sellers’ authorisation lets loose a new phrase into the already acronym-heavy world of licensing – the CAN. This new authorisation will apparently allow businesses and community groups a simpler and cheaper alternative if they wish to sell small amounts of alcohol without having a premises licence – for example hairdressers serving wine with a haircut. It will be interesting to see how the CAN works in practice as we are awaiting more detail from the Home Office. It will, of course, be necessary to ensure businesses are truly ancillary sellers of alcohol and that this does not disadvantage those with a full premises licence and the resultant safeguards (a semi-recent example involving a supposed ‘furniture shop’ selling beer comes to mind).

Finally, on to fees. The Government intend to introduce regulations bringing in the new fee levels in June 2014 – which will be locally set on a cost recovery basis and thankfully be subject to a national cap. A consultation on this new fee structure and the proposed levels is expected in the very near future, and given fees have not increased since 2005 any new levels must be proportionate so as not to burden the sector and wipe out any benefits from licensing deregulation. All in all, there is plenty for the trade to be getting its collective head round in the coming months.


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