In Trade Talk last October, l urged you to act quickly to undertake refresher training and renew your personal licences before the looming deadline of May 21, 2019.
Trade insiders were predicting a meltdown as a result of poor communication from the Scottish Government, stretched Licensing Board resources and really limited guidance being provided to the trade.
Four months ago, 2019 seemed a long way off with the busiest period of the year to get through first, but time is now very much ticking so my advice remains the same – it’s not too late but you need to act now!
Figures published by Scottish Licensed Trade News last month were worrying. Across a sample of 12 Licensing Boards only 4% of applications had been received. In Glasgow, the percentage shortfall stood at almost 98%. I expect this has crept up over the past few weeks with large operators lodging batches of renewals – but you should bear in mind that an influx of last-minute applications will pose a huge administrative burden on already stretched Licensing Board staff.
This will be all too familiar to those who remember the crisis in 2009 when the Government had to put in place emergency regulations to allow premises to operate for a limited period on the basis of a “deemed personal licence”. It had become apparent that Licensing Boards simply wouldn’t be able to process personal licence applications in time, leaving premises on September 1, 2009 without premises managers and unable to trade.
These figures indicate that history could be repeating itself but the Scottish Government has repeatedly warned that the August 31 expiry date this year is set in stone. It will not be extended – and even where a renewal application is lodged by May 31, a licence will still lapse if the Licensing Board is unable to process it timeously. You clearly do not want to find yourself at the end of this queue.
There is some light at the end of the tunnel though. The Home Office has deferred the introduction of right-to-work checks for personal licence applicants under the Immigration Act until after September, and it now seems extremely unlikely that Scottish ministers will trigger a requirement for applicants to declare their spent convictions.
This was introduced in the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 but has yet to be commenced, and doing so now could have had a catastrophic impact on resources and timings.
While the processing of your application once it has been submitted may be out of your control, ensuring you and your team complete refresher training and lodge your renewal isn’t. There is still time to do this but training courses are getting booked up fast and remember – it will take time for you to receive your certificate and then lodge your application.
You can find a complete guide to personal licence renewals here but there are some key points to remember:
- If your licence expires on August 31 you must renew by May 31.
- If your licence expires after August 31 you can work out the deadline for your renewal by counting back three months. Glasgow City Council has developed an online tool which allows you to check when you can lodge your application and what documents are required – find out more here.
- You are encouraged to “kill two birds with one stone” by submitting your refresher training certificate along with your renewal application.
- A failure to renew in time will mean you can’t authorise sales of alcohol, train staff, apply for occasional licences or act as the premises manager.
A meltdown was predicted but it can still be prevented if everyone spreads the word and those affected are encouraged to take the necessary steps.
If you are at all confused about what is required from you I recommend that you contact your Licensing Standards Officer, the Licensing Board staff, your solicitor or my team at firstname.lastname@example.org who will be happy to guide you through the process.