Thursday, 19 June 2008

Licensing law - enough to drive you mad!

I spent much of the day today at the Licensing Committee. I'll post about the actual issue and result in another post but I have never been to such a frustrating meeting in my life. And it's all to do with national laws which must have been written without thought to the consequences.

If you are a local councillor, and there is a planning application in your ward that you want to comment on, you can. You turn up to the committee and ask to speak. I have often done that, particularly to try to prevent harmful developments or ask for changes to plans. You don't always win, but at least you can try.

If however there is a licensing application in your ward and you want to go to the licensing committee and speak - tough luck. According to the law the only people who can speak in that way are the applicants, the police rep and local residents who live within a certain distance of the application. The only way a local councillor can actually represent people is by getting a resident to write a letter including authorisation. Even then you are pretty much limited to the content of the letter itself, which has obviously been written without knowledge of any arguments that might be made on the day.

So if an argument is made by an applicant, or anyone else, and you want to challenge it - you can't.

I sat in Licensing for much of today actually seething because there were so many points I wanted to make and statements I wanted to challenge.

This isn't a party political thing either. Most councillors who want to represent their wards find this system equally stiffling. Let's hope these rules get changed by the government - and pronto.

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