MP presses Minister for action as hundreds of premises miss licensing deadline

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has met the Government Minister responsible for the new Licensing Act as hundreds of small business owners and community volunteers missed the 6 August deadline for renewing their licences.

The Act has resulted in bureaucratic chaos as village shop owners, publicans and volunteers who run village halls and sports clubs have struggled to get to grips with filling out a 23 page application form which in some cases has taken up to eight hours.

In order to highlight the bureaucratic and financial plight facing many village halls and voluntary organisations, Mr Herbert met with the Minister responsible for the implementation of the Licensing Act (James Purnell) on 19 July.  

Mr Herbert asked the Minister to extend the deadline for licence applications and to increase the number of Temporary Event Notices to allow village halls and community centres to serve alcohol at events without a licence.  At present only 12 TENs are allowed a year.

But Mr Purnell said that it would not be possible to extend the deadline, and while the Government would be looking at further submissions regarding TENs over the summer, they were loath to extend this number, feeling that it would create a loophole in the law.

Mr Herbert also asked the Minister to issue more guidance for village halls and other voluntary organisations regarding the changes brought in under the new Licensing Act.  Through meetings in his constituency, Mr Herbert has heard of voluntary organisations not renewing an existing licence due to the cost and difficulty of filling out the application forms.  This is resulting in the loss of vital amenities in some of our most rural communities.  

Mr Herbert has not yet received a response from the Minister on this but is hoping to do so shortly.

By midnight on Saturday, Arun, Chichester and Horsham District Councils had only received around 70 per cent of the licence applications that they were expecting.  This means that several hundred premises across the constituency will lose the right to sell alcohol from November.

Organisations that have missed the deadline will be able to apply for a new application but at extra cost, administration, and with the risk of local objections.  They will also lose historical exemptions known as "grandfather rights".

Mr Herbert said, "I think that the Minister did take on board the problems I set out, but he cannot immediately alter legislation which has only just come into force. He is however reviewing it and promised to consider my request for further guidance to village halls and community centres.  I am disappointed not to have received this yet and I will continue to press the issue until this idiotic new bureaucracy is dealt with."


Christopher N Howarth