The Home Office recently released 2014 statistics on alcohol and late night refreshment licensing in England and Wales. Broadly the figures show little change in the number of premises licensed to sell alcohol, though the figures for new powers introduced under the Licensing Act raise questions over their effectiveness.
In particular, no Early Morning Restriction Orders (EMROs) have been implemented and only one area has managed to get a Late Night Levy through, despite several other areas attempting to.
Also questionable is the number of applications or variations being granted where 'Cumulative Impact Policies' (CIPs) are in place. CIPs are designated areas where it is deemed any further premises would be likely to have a negative ‘cumulative impact’ owing to a saturation of premises. Despite this, 86% of applications or variations in the 208 CIP areas were still granted [N.B we are currently checking these figures].
Whilst the figure is still lower than non-CIP areas (91%), the majority of applications being approved in CIP areas seems counter to the intention of the policy. Whilst it could be highlighted that some applications are not made as a result of a CIP being in place, the numbers of applications suggest this is not likely to be significant.
Licensed premises permitted to sell alcohol dropped by just under 2% as of March 2014 to 168,600. However including premises licenses which were 'not permitted to sell or supply alcohol or had alcohol permissions which were not reported', there were 204,300 premises licences, a slight increase of 0.1% (300) compared with 2013. In 2014 there were 15,400 club premises certificates, a 2% drop (-300).
24 hour licenses
There were 8,200 premises with 24-hour alcohol licences in England and Wales in March 2014, a slight decrease of 2% (-200) from the previous year, but an increase of 8% (600) compared with 2009. 24-hour alcohol licences in 2014 equated to 4% of the total number of premises licences.
A licensing authority can be asked to review a licence on the grounds of it having an adverse impact. 800 reviews were completed in the year to 31 March 2014, down 11% (-100) fewer than the previous year and 27% (-300) than in 2009.
653 reviews were for crime and disorder, 314 were for protection of children, 258 were for public nuisance, and 193 were for public safety. Police and Trading Standards instigating 79% of all reviews. Most reviews (689) resulted in conditions being added to the licence or modified, 198 resulted in a licence being revoked. The remainder resulted in either suspensions, removal of the designated supervisor or no being action taken.
Re-balancing the licensing act?
In 2010 the Government consulted on proposals to 'overhaul' the licensing act in order to 'give local authorities and the police much stronger powers to remove licences from, or refuse to grant licences to premises that are causing problems'. However given the overal figures and number of ERMOs, levies or refusals in CIP areas, it is perhaps hard to argue that any real 're-balancing' has occurred.
Also set out following the 're-balancing' consultation was reform of the temporary event notices (TENs) system, which was then abandoned following a further consultation. However the original consultation did also set out to 'enable more involvement of local health bodies in licensing decisions' which has happened to some degree (see guidance here). It also set out the intention of the 'below cost ban' which is now in effect, via of course the brief interruption of a minimum pricing announcement and subsequent u-turn.
At the recent ALcohol Concern conference, shadow public health minister, Luciana Berger, said Labour would seek to introduce public health as a licensing objective and were "committed to reviewing the licensing system with a view to enhancing the voice of local communities in licensing decisions".
The Home Office announced it would not be publishing the figures for 2015 in order 'to reduce the administrative burden both on LAs and the Home Office statistics team'.