Britain's licensees, according to the Morning Advertiser, have delivered a "resounding no" to local authority control of liquor licensing. Its survey of 1,000 pub licensees, published this week, revealed that 94% wanted to stick with magistrates.

Surprise, surprise. No change there then.

There is nothing wrong with the survey, nor its results, nor that it was prompted by an approach from JD Wetherspoon. It is just that it is probably the wrong question, and at this stage of the game, no matter how strong the anti-council grass-roots revolt, it is extremely doubtful that it will make any difference to government thinking.

When the licensing reform bill is eventually published, possibly this November, it will contain the central proposal to put liquor licensing under the control of local authorities – that is the one betting certainty.

Who controls is not the issue; how the new legislation is enforced is. Despite the undoubted hostility to local authorities, fuelled by Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin's vociferous campaign, most of the major corporate operators accept that council control is inevitable and many quietly support the change.

What is perhaps most worrying at the moment is that local authorities themselves appear unprepared for their pending new responsibilities. Another survey, this time conducted by the Leisure Property Forum, and sponsored by the law firm Osborne Clarke and the property agency King Sturge, reveals that only 42% of councils currently feel sufficiently informed about licensing issues. Another 42% admitted they probably were not well informed

Confidence in councils' licensing knowledge was even lower among the other four groups surveyed – leisure consultants, licensing justices and leisure operators, where only 13% though councils knew enough. Now may be the time to get them on board.

The survey of 115 organisations threw up other findings, which show that the licensing debate is not straightforward and, as in all research, the answers depend on the questions asked.

For example, 77% of those questioned thought there should be more integration between the granting of alcohol licences, public entertainment licences and town planning, including 69% of leisure operators. Logically, that can only happen with liquor licensing sitting with councils.

Similarly, 76% of all respondents, including 65% of operators, favoured a single Act encompassing liquor, entertainment, night cafes, theatres and cinemas. Make of that what you will.

(A longer version of this article appears in the September/October issue of the M&C Report newsletter)