Licensing shake-up workload fears

THE shake-up in licensing laws to pave the way for round the clock drinking could threaten rural pubs, it has been claimed.The warning was issued after it emerged the system behind the change in the law is putting councils, which are taking responsibility for alcohol licensing from magistrates' courts, under pressure.

THE shake-up in licensing laws to pave the way for round the clock drinking could threaten rural pubs, it has been claimed.

The warning was issued after it emerged the system behind the change in the law is putting councils, which are taking responsibility for alcohol licensing from magistrates' courts, under pressure.

Application forms are still unavailable from the Government despite the district and borough councils only having six months from Monday to process hundreds of applications from pubs needing to convert their licences from the old system.

And some publicans are still unclear about how much their applications for a new licence will cost them.


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Michael Collins, chairman of Pubwatch in Ipswich, also warned that rural pubs could be threatened by the cost of licences and competition from town centres pubs staying open longer.

He said it was likely that pubs in the towns would apply to open until about 1am on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays.

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However, he added: "The back-street public houses that do not open during the day as the husbands and wives have a second job – and the only reason they are doing it is because they live over the pub – they could disappear. It will be shameful for all drinkers.

"Everything is changing very rapidly. People won't be able to afford it."

Mr Collins is meeting with Ipswich Borough Council today to work out how it will cope over the six-month transitional period with an influx of applications from pubs for the replacement premises licences, which permit places to be used to supply alcohol and are charged according to their rateable value.

Under the new system, licences are also needed in venues providing regulated entertainment – such as theatres and cinemas – and those providing late night refreshment – like restaurants, cafes and take-aways.

Simon Kellett, senior licensing officer for Ipswich Borough Council, said: "The application forms from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport are still not ready as they are still being amended.

"We have always known we will have six months but we are two to three days away from the transitional period and there are no application forms. We would have liked to have got the application forms before now."

Paul West, the council's portfolio holder for communities, said: "Personally, I think it is not only the rural pubs but the pubs on the outskirts of the towns that will find it hard to keep up with the big players in the town centres."

Frank Warby, portfolio holder for housing, health and crime at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: "The Government has not even set the proper price yet. It will be between £60 and £200 but we do not know how much it will cost the council, and the council taxpayer, or how much we can pocket.

"We have on our books at the moment 400 premises to licence, and then we expect there to be in excess of 800 personal licences."

Wendy Schmitt, cabinet member for public protection at Braintree District Council, said: "Our opinion is it is very ill conceived legislation and it is ill-thought out and rushed through legislation. We have not got everything at our fingertips and it is starting on Monday.

"It is not the way to do legislation and it is going to put a tremendous burden on the council, not just the officers but also the councillors involved as they have not got a clue what they are going to be hit with."

Jonathan Mail, spokesman for the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), said the current system was unfair and stopped pubs applying for later hours just because they were not putting on entertainment as well.

He said: "We are very supportive of the idea of a more flexible system of opening hours and we believe it will benefit all pubs, including community and rural pubs.

"Rural pubs could open, maybe one hour later on a Friday and Saturday evening. We expect there isn't a huge consumer demand to open beyond that."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said: "The forms are being put together now and will be available on the website as soon as possible.

"Monday is the first day that people can start to apply and there will be a six month period for everybody to apply and convert their licences over from the old system to the new system. They will be able to download the forms and fill them in."

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