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Commissioner’s Response to the Home Office Consultation – Licensing Act 2003

22nd April 2014

Vera Baird QC response to the Home Office Consultation – Licensing Act 2003

Thank you for providing the opportunity to comment on your proposed reforms to fees charged under the Licensing Act 2003.  This consultation is very welcome and I’m sure will go a long way to updating the current charging system to truly reflect the demands on licensing authorities.

As you know, we are highly committed to making the Northumbria Police area one where citizens feel safe both at home and on our streets and where a safe, vibrant and thriving night-time economy is welcomed not feared.

We were very keen here in Northumbria to take advantage of recent licensing changes and welcomed the introduction of the late night levy in Newcastle. I have worked very closely with the police, Newcastle City Council and other key partners to ensure that businesses which benefit from the late night economy make a contribution to the costs which will help the city remain as one of the safest in the country and attractive to investors and visitors.  Newcastle City Council have been innovative in their consideration of this scheme and it is only right that the money collected in postcode area NE1 is reinvested back in that area, to keep Newcastle’s vibrant night time economy safe.

This coordinated approach to licensing is evidenced further by the establishment of the North East Strategic Licensing Group which brings together all local licensing authorities in the North East to ensure a joined up strategic approach to licensing issues. I am fully appraised of the consultation response the group have put together and I am writing this letter to show my support for the careful consideration they have given these very important issues.

I strongly support the views of the group who believe that whether a premises is authorised to provide licensable activities to a later terminal hour should be linked to costs of fees as generally those premises that are open later do tend to get more objections and rely on local authority and partner resources to ensure licensing conditions are enforced.

Through the enforcement of licensing objectives there are generally more costs associated with premises primarily authorised for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises. There are normally an increased number of complaints and appeals based on noise nuisance and crime and disorder that in other licensed premises such as restaurants – licensing fees should reflect this difference and consequent demand on public services.

Costs associated with licensing can include a vast array of factors including officer’s time, the cost of a hearings and consultation.  It would be useful if the Government could develop and implement a nationally agreed formula for all licensing authorities to use in order to ensure consistency across England and Wales.

I appreciate that locally set fees cannot be used to generate additional income or be used as a tool to tackle crime however I do support the introduction of them across the country.  I support you in your view that locally set fees should be transparent and should be based on evidence of legitimate costs borne by the licensing authority.  This level of transparency and openness will help us build strong public and business confidence that local licensing authorities are setting fees in a fair and proportionate way and that income generated through licensing will in fact benefit everyone.