In this guest post John Smith, a local authority licensing manager, reports on a review of four local authorities data following surprising Home Office statistics on Cumulative Impact Policies.
Following on from the publication earlier this year of the Home Office collated statistics on alcohol and late night refreshment in England and Wales for the year 2013/14, some of the declared figures have now been subjected to closer scrutiny.
The figures indicate that 86% of applications for new premises licenses in cumulative impact policy (CIP) areas were granted, as against 91% of applications in non CIP areas. The creation of a CIP, sometimes known as a 'saturation zone', leads to a rebuttable presumption that new applications will not be granted; however a representation still has to be made to engage the authorities discretion to allow a sub-committee to determine the application.
On the face of it this these figures may suggest that the imposition of a CIP in reality has a minimal impact on licences granted because the two numbers are so close, and that there is little interest being taken by responsible authorities by way of opposing these applications. Alternatively, that applicants are making non contentious applications, although this does not seem credible.
The returns submitted by four local authorities were examined. They were selected following a brief scan of the published figures. Figures that stood out included those where the numbers of applications in CIP areas were the same or close to the numbers actually granted. In some cases the numbers of applications in CIP areas were the same as the total number of licences applied for across the whole authority, suggesting that there was a clear error in the compilation of the data.
CIPs - what's really going on?
Between them the four authorities had reported a total of 150 new applications in their CIP areas. The actual number of applications was 76. One authority who had notified 22 applications in their CIP area did not have a CIP area. Two of the other authorities were also found to have submitted incorrect figures. Only one had submitted correct figures.
One authority showed 43 applications with 43 granted, but the correct figures were 7 applications made, 3 granted, 3 withdrawn and 1 refused.
The corrected figures also raise questions. One authority received 40 applications, 22 received representations which were subsequently withdrawn, with the application then being granted. This could be interpreted as meaning that following the receipt of representations the applications were mediated. A further 18 were granted having received no representations.
CIPs - not just a data issue?
Another authority received 22 applications, of which 21 were granted without any representations being received, and 1 was determined by a sub-committee. It is hard to believe that these 21 applications (almost half of the total the authority received) were for non contentious applications that had no potential to add to the cumulative impact.
With Licensing Authorities now responsible authorities in their own right there should be no reason for an application in a CIP to go unopposed if the hours/activities applied for are contrary to local policy.
Given the reporting errors identified, the veracity of the other data must also be considered. It may be that CIP figures cannot easily be extracted from databases and have to be sorted manually, but to declare applications which cannot actually be made does indicate no cross checking of data and an approach that can cast doubt on the overall credibility of the exercise.
The Home Office are not collecting data for the year 2014/15, to reduce the burden on licensing authorities.
John Smith can be contacted at email@example.com