Parliament set mid-October date to debated changes to the Policing and Crime Bill.
Changes to the Policing and Crime Bill have recently been tabled in Parliament and are due to be debated in mid-October. These changes will see clauses introduced to amend the Late Night Levy provisions and to place Cumulative Impact Policies on a statutory footing.
Late Night Levy:
The proposals will seek to make the Late Night Levy more flexible, allowing authorities to introduce the Levy in for example specific parts of a town rather than having to introduce it for the whole of the local authority area as is the case currently.
There will be greater transparency, however, with licensing authorities being required to publish information on how the funds raised by the Levy are spent.
One of the key changes is that the Levy will be extended to also apply to premises that are permitted to offer late night refreshment, for example takeaways (the Levy currently only applies to premises selling alcohol). Premises only serving hot non-alcoholic drinks are excluded.
We could see existing Levy areas become more geographically focussed on the perceived source of late night problems, be that a single street or part of town, but equally authorities who have not yet bitten the Levy bullet may be encouraged now to do so given the more flexible nature of the powers that will be made available to them.
Ultimately the changes will mean that more premises can be caught and liable to pay the Levy should an authority decide to introduce one.
Cumulative Impact Assessments:
The proposals seek to put Cumulative Impact Policies on a statutory footing, the stated aim being to ensure that there is both legal certainty and transparency for all parties involved in the licensing application process (e.g. the applicant, the licensing authority and the other responsible authorities).
The changes do not mean that all licensing authorities will have to consider Cumulative Impact, but instead that where they do consider it they should conduct an assessment and set out the evidence showing why they have decided to introduce a Cumulative Impact Policy.
An authority which publishes a Cumulative Impact Assessment will be required to review it every 3 years. Again the stated purpose is that authorities will have to ensure that the information they are using is up to date and so, for example, if an area is no longer a problem in theory it should be removed from any Cumulative Impact area.
A lot is left to the Statutory Guidance, for example the kinds of evidence that may be used and how robust, up to date and relevant that evidence is. For my part I will be looking for direct causality to the problems complained of, locally-based evidence rather than generic data and a formal recognition that the purpose of cumulative impact policies is not to cryogenically freeze the status quo at the expense of responsible, well-run and imaginative new licensed businesses.
But then I was always an optimist.