Evidence from our own monitoring and from the trade suggests that, as a result of the Licensing Act 2003, licensees are now able to offer a greater range of opening hours to meet consumer demand. In addition, the survey of smaller music venues published on 7 December 2006 suggests that many premises previously restricted to operating under the “two in a bar” rule can now offer a greater choice of live music for consumers by putting on more than two musicians.
Community groups should benefit from the increasing number of local authorities which are licensing public land for those putting on licensable activities. We are aware that some community groups are finding it difficult to adjust to the new regime and we are looking at how measures announced in the Department’s simplification plan can help to address their concerns.
It remains early days and the Government’s programme of evaluation of the impact of reform will continue. I recently received a copy of the Independent Fees Panel’s Report and look forward to seeing what it has to say about the impact on fee payers, including licensees and community groups.
Members of Parliament and local councillors may make representations on behalf of anyone who is an interested party under the Licensing Act 2003. This includes a person living in the vicinity of a premises. A councillor making a representation, who is also a member of the licensing committee, would be expected to disqualify themselves from any involvement in the decision-making process affecting the premises licence.
Councillors are subject to the code of conduct for local authority members. The code includes rules on members’ personal and prejudicial interests. A member has a prejudicial interest in an issue when they have an interest which a member of the public would reasonably regard as so significant that it would be likely to prejudice the member’s judgment of the public interest. A member with a prejudicial interest in an issue is required to withdraw from the meeting where it is being discussed. The Department for Communities and Local Government is currently reviewing the code of conduct, and intends to consult shortly on a draft revised code. This will include proposed changes to the rules on prejudicial interests which will support members’ advocacy role.
Councillors also have a duty to act in the interests of all of their constituents. Their role as a community advocate must therefore be balanced with their ability to represent specific interests.