An influential association that represents c2,500 professionals working in licensing has added its weight to calls to shelve plans to abolish personal licences.

The Institute of Licensing (IoL) - whose membership includes representatives of the industry, local authorities, police and the legal profession - said that the proposal would “undermine the licensing objectives”, “increase the burden on industry and regulators” and “lead to mass inconsistency in place of the existing (largely) coherent national system”.

The group said it would be “happy to discuss with the Home Office ways in which the current system could be improved”. “But in the meantime we believe that the proposals in their current form should be shelved.”

IoL chairman Jon Collins said: “Given the broad and varied nature of our membership, consultations are often met with mixed views, which the IoL will look to fairly represent. On this occasion however, there was sufficient consensus of opinion for the IoL to take a narrow view and that view is that the abolition of the personal licence system as proposed by the consultation must be opposed.”

The proposals, which were announced by the Home Office in September, had previously been attacked by licensing lawyers and industry representatives.

One plan is to allow councils to require a criminal records declaration be provided with any new application to vary the designated premises supervisor. Jonathan Smith, managing partner at Poppleston Allen, told M&C Report in September that the proposal “really worries me”.

“It adds expense, it would be a procedural nightmare and I don’t think it’s needed if police are provided with names and addresses and can check for themselves anyway.”

He pointed out that criminal records checks can cost £25 to £30 and take two to four weeks, or sometimes longer, to complete.

In exchange for removing personal licences, a proposal is to allow greater flexibility for licensing authorities to impose conditions on premises licences for staff to undergo training. John Gaunt & Partners said: “This of course already exists and is used on occasions but it seems the Government will encourage this ‘targeted’ approach in appropriate cases.

“So the loosening of restrictions is only partial and in practice may result in more heavily conditioned licences. Plus, what guidance will be given as to ‘appropriate cases, or will the default position be criminal records checks by the police and all prospective DPSs having to attend the police station to produce their qualification?”
Other proposals in the new consultation include allowing those who either are named as the DPS or have accredited training to give up to 50 Temporary Event Notices a year; those without would be limited to giving five.

Requiring all alcohol sales to be made or authorised by the DPS, rather than a personal licence holder, and allowing police to object to a new DPS based on the crime prevention objective in general rather than only in “exceptional circumstances”, are also proposed.

Announcing the consultation, the minister of state for crime prevention, Jeremy Browne, said the move could save businesses around £10m a year.