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Government Proposes to Withdraw Alcohol Licence Notices from Local Papers

Government proposals to withdraw the requirement for alcohol licence notices to be published in local newspapers constitute a new and dangerous threat to the public right to know, the NS has warned. 

In the Home Office consultation ‘Delivering the Government’s policies to cut alcohol fuelled crime and anti-social behaviour’ the Government suggests scrapping the present requirement that those applying for new licences or making full licence variations must advertise their applications in a local newspaper or circular.

The NS believes the proposals, which the Home Office estimates could cost the regional press industry between £6.2 and £7.9m a year, would lead to local licensing matters being decided in secret, without local knowledge and debate, and cutting off those without access to the internet. 

The NS said: “The proposal to remove the obligation to place licensing application and variation notices in local newspapers must be rejected. They have nothing to do with the Government’s aims of cutting alcohol-fuelled crime and antisocial behaviour.

“Enabling the whole community – not just the immediate “neighbours” of a venue to be as informed as fully possible about new licences and about applications for variations, usually increased opening hours, is itself a vital tool in those aims by enabling the community to raise concerns directly relating to these issues.

“The role of statutory notices such as licensing applications is as valid today as when they were originally introduced: to ensure that important information which can have a real impact on community life is publicised as widely as possible.

“It goes to the heart of the public’s democratic right to know and to transparency, and it should not be dismissed simply as a “cost-saving” issue.

“The Government cannot seriously be advocating a measure simply to save the alcohol industry a one-off cost, at the expense of local residents’ right to be informed and comment upon issues which directly impact on the very areas the Government professes to be concerned about – alcohol-fuelled crime and anti-social behaviour.”

Following NS and regional press publishers’ campaign, the Government rejected similar proposals on planning notices in 2009 and earlier this year the Welsh Assembly rejected similar proposals in relation to traffic notices, acknowledging that the plans would have left portions of the general public “disenfranchised” if enacted. 

Proposals in relation to traffic notices in England also met with strong opposition from MPs and the regional press industry and the Department for Transport is expected to deliver a response to that consultation shortly. In a recent debate MPs called for Government to think innovatively about Governemnt ad Spend to ensure it provides support to local newspapers which perform a vital role in their communities.

The NS will also be submitting a response to the Home Office consultation, which closes on 6 February, and some local and regional press publishers have already done so, pointing out the apparent inconsistency of the Government’s move to crack down on alcohol fuelled crime and anti-social behaviour while simultaneously proposing a measure which reduces transparency.

Under the Licensing Act 2003, applications have to be publicised by a notice in the local newspaper, a physical notice on the premises themselves, and on the website of the relevant licensing authority.

  • The full Home Office consultation paper, and how to respond, can be seen here
  • The impact assessment and Evidence Base relating to the newspaper notices proposal can be found here.
     

The NS is the voice of Britain’s local media, the UK’s most trusted medium. It represents 1,100 newspapers, 1,700 websites and other print, digital and broadcast channels.