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Glimpse of the Future? LGA’s briefing note on Public Health in Licensing

January 24, 2013

The Local Government Association and Alcohol Research UK have together published a briefing note entitled ‘Public Health and Alcohol Licensing in England’, highlighting the fact that public health will become the responsibility of Local Government when it transfers from the NHS to Local Authorities in April 2013.

The document makes interesting reading. Here are some of the main points:

• Public health has always been a key consideration for alcohol policy. However, until recently Health Authorities had little or no input into the licensing process.

• The Police and Social Responsibility Act amended licensing legislation to give Health Authorities a statutory role in the licensing process. As responsibility for public health will transfer from the NHS to Local Authorities in 2013 alcohol licensing is an area that is ‘worth exploring’ with these new roles.

• The briefing note acknowledges that there is ‘currently’ no licensing objective directly relating to public health, and that Health Authorities must ensure their representations are related to one of the four existing licensing objectives.

• Evidence may consist of data from Accident & Emergency Departments. Data sharing between the police, A&E and ambulance services is encouraged.

• In Leeds the NHS is working with Yorkshire Ambulance Service to include a question in the pro-forma used by ambulance crews, asking where the patient last purchased or obtained their alcoholic drink. The briefing note acknowledges that this data is ‘not perfect’ but would compliment A&E data which ‘can then be used to better effect in alcohol and violent crime analysis reports’.

• The note advises the establishment of a bank of relevant data that can be used across representations rather than seeking to source data on a case by case basis.

• The proposed introduction of a public health objective in the establishment of Cumulative Impact Areas is acknowledged.

• The document goes on to state that evidence that an area has a higher than average rate of alcohol-related mortality or disease could be used to argue for the establishment of new Cumulative Impact Areas or against applications for new premises within existing Cumulative Impact Areas.

• The briefing note acknowledges that in Scotland, where the ‘protection and promotion of public health’ is a fifth licensing objective, Licensing Boards and Health Authorities had difficulty in applying this objective effectively.

• It states ‘the key challenge regarding the application of a public health objective is the danger of applying general principles or indicators to individual premises. Licensing teams have to take account of possible legal challenges, so Health Authorities should be realistic about what their involvement can achieve. However, active engagement is critical if the role of health in licensing is to be established in the longer term’.

We are entering a new phase of licensing. No doubt in some areas Health Authorities will flex their new licensing muscles, with greater or lesser degrees of specificity (and legal challenge). However, the Government’s recent proclamations have been clear – it wants the issue of alcohol-related harm to play a much more significant role in licensing decisions, and by transferring these responsibilities to local Government it will be taking a major step in that direction.

Andy Grimsey

Solicitor Poppleston Allen


 Public health and alcohol licensing in England – http://www.local.gov.uk/web/guest/publications/-/journal_content/56/10171/3841108/PUBLICATION-TEMPLATE

LGA Website – http://www.local.gov.uk/

Poppleston Allen – http://www.popall.co.uk/

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