Kit Malthouse MP, Minister of State for Crime and Policing has written to local authority Licensing Committee Chairs across England and Wales recognising the difficulties faced by regulators and businesses and urging a collaborative and pragmatic approach to minimise damage to both businesses and the licensing objectives.
The letter recognises the enormous disruption to businesses, public services and individuals across the country. It urges local authorities faced with potential staffing issues as a result of redeployment and illness, and with the additional challenges of working remotely to keep the licensing system operational through remote licensing hearings, and temporary measures to address concerns around advertising of applications through consultation with local ward councillors, resident groups where established and through online advertising on council websites.
On the question of premises licence fees, the letter points out that local authorities have discretion when considering non-payment or late payment of annual fees, and that while section 55A of the Licensing Act 2003 requires suspension of licences, licensing authorities can delay any suspensions where businesses are experiencing difficulties as a direct result of COVID-19.
Finally, the letter reminds local authorities that a considered and pragmatic approach should be taken to breaches of licence conditions and procedural defects caused by the pandemic, particularly where such breaches or defects do not have a significant adverse effect on the licensing objectives.