A key focus for every Local Licensing Forum should be the Licensing Policy Statement written by the Licensing Board in their area. In essence, all other work done by Forums links into this.
The Forum should be looking at:
The Forum should gather evidence from a range of sources to support their views.
All Forum discussions should lead to consideration of the steps that can be taken to ensure that local Policy is consistent with what is regarded as important by the Forums.
Forums also have a role in helping to network on licensing issues locally. To do this, they need to develop links with other local organisations and partnerships that may be undertaking relevant work such as Alcohol and Drug Partnerships, Community Safety Partnerships, Public Health Bodies, and where relevant, Community Planning.
Forums are unable to have any input in relation to individual applications or cases, so they require to focus on wider policy issues. This means that the Forum should always have the topic of policy on its agenda, and all Forum discussions should lead to consideration of the steps that can be taken to ensure that local policy is consistent with what is regarded as important by the Forums.
Whilst the Forum cannot comment on an individual premises they are able to recommend to the Board that particular attention is paid to an area if there are problems.
It is important that Forum members are equipped to perform the role which is demanded of them. They therefore need to be familiar with:
It is recommended that Forum members attend a Licensing Board meeting to aid their understanding of the role and procedures of the Board.
There is no requirement for Forum members to have any specific legal knowledge, unlike Licensing Board members who must complete mandatory training and sit an exam. However, they may find it helpful to get a basic overview of the law.
Forums need to be properly informed to allow them to operate effectively and it is important for Forums to carry out research and produce evidence to the Board when making recommendations or providing advice. By doing so, the Forum will earn the respect and trust of the Board, and it will be far more difficult for the Board to reject any proposals put forward to it by the Forum.
Forums are entitled to the same statistical information from the police or local council as the Licensing Board. In addition, the Licensing Forum should utilise the expertise of its members to gather information and they should form links with local bodies as they consider relevant.
Some of the ways in which the impact of licensing in the local area can be assessed are:
Forums should be aware that many premises will be well run but may be affected by problems occurring in neighbouring areas. In addition it can be worth looking at why some premises are better than others to see if there is any good practice that can be shared. There are a number of schemes where licence holders work together to improve the area, such as PubWatch or the Unite schemes for late night premises, which the Forum should be aware of.
Unfortunately there is not a simple answer to this question. The guidance provided by the Scottish Government appears contradictory as, on the one hand it recognises the knowledge and experience that a Licensing Board member could bring to the Forum, but on the other hand it makes clear that the Forum must be an entirely independent body. The question arises as to whether a Forum can be truly independent if one of its members is in a position to review, give advice and make recommendations to the Board that he or she is a member of? It does seem that the independence of the Forum is compromised, or, at the very least, may be seen to be compromised, by the inclusion of a Board member. At the end of the day, it is a matter for Forums themselves to determine but the crucial questions that perhaps should be considered are:
Licensing Boards must consider any recommendations made by the Forum and, if they choose not to follow the Forum’s advice, they must provide reasons in writing to the Forum within 42 days.The Licensing Board must also supply data and relevant information to the Forum when requested.
It is essential for Forums to accurately represent community opinion. Local Licensing Forums need to use their local knowledge and their own experiences, as well as statistics and evidence from expert groups, to review the impact of licensing in their area. Whilst the Licensing Scotland Act 2005 only requires residents to live in the area, and only requires LSOs to work in the area, it would be sensible that all others should live or work in the area.
As well as representing community opinion, it is vital that Forums properly engage with the communities they represent, so it is important that members of the public, who have an interest in licensing as well as local knowledge, can make contact with Forums.
Community Engagement comes in various forms and there is no one size fits all rule. The National Standards for Community Engagement was published in 2005 and provides advice and information on best practice principles for the way that we should engage with communities. This is not a definitive document but instead should be looked on as a form of toolkit that can be utilised by agencies to assist in developing the level of engagement with the community that is required. The Standards can be found on the Scottish Community Development Centre's website.
In terms of the legislation, Forums are required to meet at least 4 times per year and they must have at least one joint meeting with the Licensing Board, giving a total of 5 meetings annually.
It would appear that most Forums are opting to restrict themselves to the minimum number of meetings.
What is important is that each Forum identifies the main local issues which it considers are crucial, that work is carried out in these key areas and if the tasks involved are going to be time consuming, that it appoints sub committees to investigate the issues and report back to the main Forum.
It is for the council to decide who and how many members are appropriate for the Local Licensing Forum. At least one LSO must be a member, but it is for the council to appoint other members “on such terms and conditions as the relevant council may determine”. It is recommended that some sort of protocol is agreed within the council as to how this is done.
Points to consider are:
In addition, more practical details to be decided are:
Apart from having a statutory duty to establish Licensing Forums, councils require to provide Forums with such staff, property and services as the council considers is required for the Forum’s purposes. It is normal for this to include a venue for the Forum meetings, an administration person to take, produce and circulate minutes and a legally qualified person with experience of liquor licensing to provide legal advice if required. It is advisable that a small budget be available for training of Forum members and for supporting the Forums activities.
In addition the Council has a duty to provide information to the public about the Forum and its work. As a basic, all Local Licensing Forums should be advertised on the Local Authority’s website, ideally with minutes from previous meetings, details of future meetings and how to contact the Forum.
The Scottish Government has funded the position of the National Licensing Officer from 2007-2010 to provide support to Forums as they become established. This includes maintaining the website with general information on forums, contact details for each forum along with more detailed guidance for Forum members.
You can contact the National Licensing Development Officer via email or on 01415726705.
If you are interested in finding out a bit more about the law, there are easy to read publications available that were written for personal licence holders or staff. These are normally available from training providers. The general public can buy the “Personal Licence Holder’s Guide” and the “Workbook for Staff of Licensed Premises”, both written by Alcohol Focus Scotland, from Amazon.
The Guidance for Licensing Boards and Local Authorities issued by the Scottish Government in April 2007 suggested:
Publicity tools councils may wish to consider in establishing a Forum may include:
On the Council’s website there could be:
Details of the current members of the Orkney Local Licensing Forum can be viewed in PDF format from the Related Downloads section.
If you are interested in becoming a member of the Forum, please contact Hazel Flett, details below.
Further information relating to Local Licensing Forums in Scotland can be found on their website.
If you would like further information relating to the Orkney Local Licensing Forum or have any comments, please contact:
Corporate Services, Orkney Islands Council, Council Offices, Kirkwall, KW15 1NY.
Telephone: 01856873535, extension 2208.