You Have the Power to Stop Drink Scourge; PUBLIC TO BE GIVEN SAY ON LOCAL LICENSING DECISIONS

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Byline: HELEN RAE

ALCOHOL-misuse experts have welcomed plans to provide more powers for communities to influence licensing decisions.

Proposals for tough new measures to crack down on problem premises selling alcohol and to allow residents to have a greater say were unveiled yesterday.

Ahead of a major speech on antisocial behaviour, Home Secretary Theresa May outlined a range of options to overhaul the Licensing Act as she said "the system needs to be rebalanced in favour of local communities".

Measures for consultation include: Making it easier for communities to have their say on local licensing by allowing local authorities to consider the views of the wider community, not just those living close to premises; Taking tough action against underage drinking by doubling the fine to pounds 20,000 for those found persistently selling alcohol to children, extending orders that see premises closed on a voluntary basis to a minimum of seven days and bringing in automatic licence reviews for these problem premises - which can see licences revoked; Charging a fee for late-night licences to pay for the cost of extra policing and scrapping ineffective, bureaucratic and unpopular Alcohol Disorder Zones; Ensuring policing and health concerns are fully considered so that the impact of licensing on crime and disorder or public health can be fully taken into account when assessing licence applications; Increasing licence fees so that local councils can cover costs linked to enforcement, leaving premises to pay rather than the local taxpayer; Tightening up rules for temporary licences by limiting the number of Temporary Event Notices that can be applied for in any one year -these are often used to get around the restrictions of applying for a permanent licence; Introducing a ban the sale of below-cost alcohol and consulting on how this can be achieved. …