Alcohol licensing changes will be disaster for local shops, warns ACS

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ACS (Association of Convenience Stores) has warned changes in alcohol licensing would be ineffective and cost convenience retailers at least £11m.

Speaking in response to the Home Office consultation, Rebalancing the Licensing Act, ACS chief executive, James Lowman, said: “The proposed changes to the licensing system would be a disaster for local shops. We fear that Government is advancing at breakneck speed towards a raft of policy changes that are based in poor evidence and will lead to more difficulties for local authorities, more cost for businesses and more problems for communities.”

The Consultation, which concludes today, has run for six weeks. It seeks views on 26 changes to licensing policy. Ministers are expected to include many of the measures in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill currently before Parliament, meaning some measures could be in force within months.

Changes proposed include new powers for police and councils, the removal of the burden of evidence and the right of appeal, the introductions of new penalties for underage sales offences, new fee raising powers and restrictions on opening hours.

Lowman continued: “Government has to reflect carefully on the cost and red tape burden that these proposals would impose. Changes to the licensing application process to require retailers to demonstrate the impact of their licence would alone add £11m in costs to the convenience sector. This new burden has unclear benefits and is likely to cause cost based discrimination which favours large companies who can afford the best legal representation.

“Above all, the Governments policies will jeopardise the culture of partnership working which has proved to be effective in tackling alcohol-related harm. Schemes such as Community Alcohol Partnerships have shown the best results come when retailers, police, local authorities, schools, local press and Trading Standards to work together.

“Introducing arbitrary new powers and removing rights from responsible business owners will reduce trust and prevent business and agencies working together.”