Councils call for review of outdated licensing system

Published on Monday, 21 October 2013 15:12
Written by Sinead Fynes Black

Local businesses need to be freed from outdated and complex licensing rules and needless red tape, council leaders are warning.

The current system is deterring people from setting up and running a business in their community. Analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA) has found that a small family restaurant might need to put in as many as EIGHT separate licensing applications before being able to open for business.

The LGA, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, is calling for a rewiring of the current system to remove and update licensing regimes across at least five Whitehall departments.

While some licensing rules – dating back more than a century – could be scrapped or simplified, all licensing regimes should be based on a common legal framework. Instead of going through full bureaucratic renewals of licences, businesses would submit minimal updates, but with councils able to call in licences if there are problems.

Local licensing committees also need the power to respond to the views of their businesses and communities to remove rules that are irrelevant in their area or respond to new risks.

Cllr Mehboob Khan, Chair of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: "Councils want to encourage local growth and share the frustration of local businesses faced with countless licences and heavy costs before they can start trading. Millions of pounds are wasted each year managing this needless red tape and a licensing system that is woefully out of date and preventing councils from targeting the minority of businesses causing real problems.

"It is ridiculous that laws developed more than 100 years ago with no relevance to the 21st century remain in force, each with their own unfathomable maze of paperwork and fees. The time has come for Government to commit to a full review of the system to remove some of these outdated regimes and to combine and simplify others.

"Overhauling these archaic licensing systems would strengthen the role of local licensing committees and democratically-elected councillors to make decisions about individual licences, remove irrelevant regimes and adapt to emerging local risks.

"This would make it easier for businesses to set up and operate, while ensuring councils have meaningful powers to tackle the few irresponsible businesses and safeguard their local residents and communities."

Source: LGA

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