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Devon and Cornwall police and crime commissioner backs licensing reforms

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: February 15, 2014

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Calls to update licensing laws to give greater consideration to health advice have been backed by Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Hogg.

Since being voted into office, Mr Hogg has prioritised the battle against alcohol-related crime and has invited supermarkets and retailers to “round table” talks next month to discuss his concerns.

The Local Government Association is demanding that a new “public health” objective is taken into account when reaching licensing decisions in a bid to tackle the issue.

It is also urging the Government to end bizarre rules that prevent councils from acting on warnings from local health experts.

Local health experts are able to present evidence, such as ambulance call-out data and hospital admissions, to councils ruling on licenses.

But under current rules councils are forced to ignore the advice when considering applications – restricting their ability to fulfil their public health responsibilities and protect communities.

Mr Hogg believes authorities should be able to limit the opening of late-night pubs, clubs and off licences in areas where public safety and alcohol-related health problems are rife.

“I find it astonishing that some key factual evidence cannot be used when licence applications are being considered.” said Mr Hogg.

“Councils are best placed to make these important decisions which clearly have a major impact on our local communities.

“Applications must be turned down when there is overwhelming evidence to do so. Health, police and community safety concerns have to be listened to fully.”

In addition to the huge impact on police and crime, excessive alcohol consumption is estimated to cost the NHS around £3.5 billion a year nationally.

In 2010-11 there were 198,900 hospital admissions attributed to alcohol abuse – an increase of 40 per cent in a decade.

Councillor Katie Hall, Chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Councils continue to embrace their public health responsibilities to improve the health of their communities. By shifting this responsibility back to councils, the Government has rightly acknowledged they are best-placed to take local decisions for their residents.

“Local health experts have a vital role to play in advising councils on the potential impacts of an application to open new licensed premises. That makes it even more nonsensical that councils are being forced to ignore their advice when considering additional licences they know could be a health hazard.

“The Government needs to see sense and help communities by updating licensing rules and adding a new health objective. This would help improve the health of local areas and also ease the pressure on the nation’s stretched health services.”

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