Licensing switch 'could hit pubs hard'
PUB landlords could be taking to the streets and marching to parliament if proposals to change licensing laws hit Suffolk.The proposed changes will mean that control will be taken from magistrates and given to local authorities.
By Victoria Knowles
PUB landlords could be taking to the streets and marching to parliament if proposals to change licensing laws hit Suffolk.
The proposed changes will mean that control will be taken from magistrates and given to local authorities.
Politicians would have a greater say in the running of our pubs and Suffolk licensees fear this will mean more red tape, higher costs and too much power in inexperienced hands.
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According to one Suffolk landlord if the changes do go ahead then at least two thirds of licensees will walk away from the trade.
Michael Collins, who is chairman of Ipswich Pub Watch and landlord of McGinty's, Ipswich, feared the worst – and called for a united front to beat off the bureaucrats.
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"I think every licensee in Suffolk should be deciding now to get together and have meetings in the community. We all should be prepared to march to Parliament and I would be in the front line.
"The impact of these licensing changes will mean in my view that two thirds of licensees will walk away if control is given to local authorities."
"It will mean taking power from the magistrates and handing it to people who do not have any experience.
"If they give the power to politicians then they will be looking after their interests and the interests of their constituents and not the licensees.
"Also importantly what do councillors know about the licensing trade? I suspect most councils will not even want it because it will mean so much more work for them.
If there were good experienced people working on the council then maybe some good would come out of it but I am very sceptical.
"We do need changes to the licensing laws but they need to be made more flexible. I would like to see the British Government give the British public the opening ours they want. There has been too much talk and not enough action.
"The licensing laws are a complete obstacle to my trade and the proposed plans will only make things worse," he said.
Alfred Codona, landlord of the Steamboat Tavern, Ipswich agreed and said that more red tape and higher costs – which could top £1billion to the trade as a whole - would force people out of business.
"It will become more complicated and expensive to be a licensee. If prices go up then there will be many people in the trade who will be forced to leave.
"We need less legislation not more red tape and we need greater flexibility in our laws. If these laws come in to place then the whole system will become more politicised. Politicians will be working on behalf of their constituents and so any complaints about noise will become far bigger issues," he said.
Despite the fears in the licensing trade, Tessa Jowell, culture, media and sport secretary, told the association of Licensed Multiple Retailers there would be "very significant" reductions in bureaucracy and costs.
Ipswich Borough Council said it was aware of the proposals but that now it is still in the consultation stage at central government.
*What do you think about the proposals? Should the local authorities be given this power? Are you happy to have 24-hour drinking? Write with your views to Your Letters at Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN, email email@example.com or fax 01473 225296.
In an survey by one of the biggest licensee's papers in the country recently carried out a survey landlords and landladies gave a resounding No to the proposals.
94 per cent do not want local authorities to run licensing.
90 per cent do not believe the government when they say it will be cheaper.
86 per cent do not believe the government when they say there will be less red tape.
72 per cent are worried residents will have too much say over their pubs.
44 per cent do not want to open their pubs for any longer than at present.