Licencing authorities should take a more flexible approach when ensuring licensing objectives are safeguarded during the coronavirus pandemic, the government has told local councils.

In a letter from the Home Office, local authorities were urged to take a “considered and pragmatic approach” towards breaches of licence conditions and procedural defects caused by the coronavirus pandemic, “particularly where these breaches or defects do not have a significant adverse impact on the licensing objectives”.

The letter said that where businesses are experiencing difficulties in paying premises licence fees and late-night levy charges as a result of the virus, the authority should consider delaying any suspension of the licence.

It also advised councils that they should consider allowing deliveries outside of normal times, flexibility on advertising applications, and the use of remote hearings.

“These are extremely challenging times,” it said. “With the right spirit of collaboration, communication and pragmatism, I believe that we can get through them with minimum damage to businesses and to the licensing objectives.”

Responding to the move, Kate Nicholls, UK Hospitality CEO said: “This additional flexibility for licensees is some welcome positive news at a moment when any good news is needed. The Government has shown a great deal of common sense in advising local authorities to act more pragmatically and flexibly during the outbreak.

“Hospitality businesses are currently under a huge amount of strain. The majority have no revenue whatsoever at the minute, and those that are operating in some capacity are working hard to support the needs of their communities and key workers. Pursuing a tactic of ‘business as usual’ would have only heaped more pressure on businesses and stretched council resources even further.

“This scope for greater flexibility while the crisis is still in full swing is exactly the kind of lateral approach to business support we need.”