I wrote to my MP again after another alert from ROger Gall.
Roger's alert follows, then my letter to my MP.
Subject: Council fears new fees too low!
Please note that this article states that the officer quoted here, sits on the sub committee that is now drawing up the new Bill.
From Morning Advertiser (26/09/02),
Council wants local discretion' to recover £2.5m costs of overseeing licensing
Camden to lobby for fees leeway
BY PAUL CHARITY
Camden Council is to lobby the Government for "leeway" in charging licensees to process liquor licence applications when licensing is transferred to it after reform. The council will see the number of licences it oversees leap from 300 to 1,500 after reform and believes its running costs may rise from £500,000 a year to £2.5m. It wants "local discretion" to be able to recover its costs in fees.
PELs cost an average of £1,000 to £1,200 in Camden but two or three premises pay £20,000 a year - it has been suggested by trade leaders the licence fee will be a maximum of £300 after reform.
"It can't be a blanket fee if we are to recover our costs," said Trish O'Flynn, Camden licensing and safety manager.
The council also believes that it will need two or three years for the job to be transferred to it smoothly - the Government wants a one year transition period.
O'Flynn, who sits on the subgroups drawing up the licensing bill, said: "If the money isn't there the whole system is going to seize up with people waiting inordinate amounts of time for their licences to be processed.
"The London boroughs, in particular, are arguing for a higher fee, because our running costs are that much higher. I know the industry is pushing for the lowest fee level. But if there's no leeway there, then ultimately, it's the licensees that will suffer because their licenses won't be processed."
O'Flynn thinks that boroughs like Camden, with an "articulate population very interested in licensing" might see many more reviews of licensed premises requested by residents than a rural authority, which could add substantially to Camden's costs.
On the issue of the transition period, she said a 12-months period meant the council would have to be issuing 25 licences a week. "We're suggesting a two or three year transition period."
Camden's lobbying campaign will also argue for greater sovereignty for local authority policy. "We Want to look beyond individual premises to the cumulative impact of premises. Government policy is that there should be less discretion for local authorities than now."
Currently, applicants for contested PELs in Camden can expect to wait all average of six months for a decision. "That's why we would like to see the transition staged over two or three years, so you get them arriving 50 at a time or something. It'd be very difficult to process [1,500] all at once."
O'Flynn believes a number of local authorities will not be as prepared for reform as Camden. "Everybody needs to understand the complexities of the situation. We're planning ahead - it worries me that not every borough is doing that."
Camden Council is to push ahead with a cheaper "unplugged PEL licence" as part of its new "Night in Night Out" licensing policy. The licence is aimed at pubs which want to showcase acoustic, folk and jazz performances. It would cost just 25% of the normal PEL fee.
The licence requires less paperwork and limits premises to a 100 capacity and a midningy terminal our.
Camden licensing and safety manager Trish O'Flynn said "It's a regular music and dancing licence but with a condition that says there's no amplification whatsoever of any part of the performance. The licence conditions relating to noise will be simpler for licensee and for the officers who are enforcing it."
Pictured above is Billy Bragg, who has campaigned for a relaxation on rules governing live music in pubs.
Pub promo laws unlikey
British Beer Pub Association guidelines on pub promotions such as happy hours and drinking games are unlikely to be included in a new licensing bill- despite pressure within the industry from the Portman Group. The alcohol watchdog had originally expressed a preference for reform to incorporate such a code. . But the Portman Group last week published it own tougher code of practice, finally agreed to leave the issue to the BPPA, 'this is somebody else's territory, and, although there were suggest ions that we should get involved, in the end we felt this was adequately being dealt with," said Portman Group Director Jean Coussins.
BBPA communications director Mark Hastings commented 'we shall be revisiting the guidelines after about a year to see if, they need strengthening, but we're not asking for them to be in a new act as the police already have considerable new powers, including the ability to close a pub for 24 hours."
SO I SAID TO MY MP
Dear Mr Marshall-Andrews
When even Camden, perhaps the local authority featuring in the most horror stories about PELs, proposes less regulation on acoustic music, can there be any real doubt that acoustic music does not need the rules and regulations that amplified music does?
I might also point out that Camden is undoubtedly right that the cumulative effect of multiple premises with electric music exceeds the impact of one such set of premises (I live between two pubs, so I DO know).
Also, the effect that a nationwide application of the goverment's stated principle - that it cannot distinguish between different types of music - (which not only is idiotic in itself but also is in practice disproved by the existing uses in Camden of the acoustic-only mini-licence) will have upon folk music (and dance) is highlighted: the fees in the goverment paper will not work because they are uneconomic for local government, so they must in practice rise (or be, for example, cross-subsidised by fees for inspecting building works required as a condition of the grant of licences, etc). Therefore minority cultural interests such as folk music and dance will be squeezed out by more obviously commercial entertainment. Is this the new democracy of New Labour, goverment by the philistine for the philistine?
As a counterpoint to the last paragraph, may I also emphasise that a study by Shepherd Neame appears to demonstrate that the White Paper overstates by at least seven times the aggregate cost to the brewing industry of the present licensing system, so a key plank of the argument for the new system (that it would lower overall costs to industry) may well be a terminological inexactitude.
I continue to look forward to hearing from you.
Richard McD. Bridge