SLTA managing director Colin Wilkinson, on behalf of the trade association, has responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on whether or not to raise the fee for an occasional licence from the current price of £10.
In addition, the Government is also consulting on prescribing a limit on the number and duration of occasional licences for holders of a premises licence and holders of a personal licence.
See the SLTA’s response in full below:
The Scottish Licensed Trade Association would firstly make a general comment on the issue of occasional licences. The opportunity for voluntary organisations to apply for an occasional permission to sell alcohol at an event, organised by those voluntary organisations, has, in our view, been one of the most openly abused facilities of the current Licensing Act.
On many occasions these events are run by untrained, unsupervised individuals with, in most cases, no experience whatsoever and it is extremely concerning that such individuals and organisations can be issued with occasional licences for up to 56 days in a 12-month period.
Overprovision is not a matter to be considered, certification is not required from building standards, planning or environmental health, neighbours are not notified, except by way of an advert on the council website, and a hearing before the board is only required where there are reports or objections.
Once granted, premises trading on an occasional licence do not need a premises manager, signage is not required and staff do not need to be trained unless the licensing board attaches additional conditions to that effect. We fail to see how this fulfils any of the licensing objectives.
This association continues to advocate that all servers of alcohol should be trained to a recognised national standard, and to allow voluntary organisations to be exempt from many of the conditions pertaining to licensees and their premises is disgraceful. The SLTA believes that occasional licences should only be granted to suitable personal licence holders and that the licence holder should be present at the event.
Boards have voiced dissatisfaction at the £10 fee which they have no discretion to increase and we concede that this does not cover the administrative costs of processing this particular licence application.
However, the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 provides that licensing fees be based on cost recovery and the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 requires licensing boards to produce an annual report including placing a duty on licensing boards to prepare and publish an annual financial report.
The report contains details of relevant income received by the licensing board during the financial year; details of relevant expenditure incurred in respect of the board’s area during the year; and an explanation of how the amounts in the report were calculated. At this point we would advise that actually trying to get hold of, or find these reports from the appropriate council websites, is extremely difficult if not impossible.
From the most recent figures we have been able to retrieve, it is difficult to sympathise, on the low level of fee, with licensing boards which have recorded a financial surplus from operating the overall licensing system in their jurisdiction, contrary to the above-mentioned acts.
City of Aberdeen: £138,020
City of Edinburgh: £104,995 (on record as stating a budget surplus of £233,000 in year one of the new licensing system)
City of Glasgow: £60,663
Moray: £18,023 (accumulated a surplus of £81,699 since year one)
Perth & Kinross: £54,932
Scottish Borders: £20,916
The SLTA accepts that some licensing boards do run at a loss, but the Scottish Government must take into account the “surpluses” recorded by a number of licensing boards in their annual reports when determining any changes to the current level of fees for occasional licences, particularly when a number of boards have regularly reported surpluses amounting to, in some cases, tens of thousands of pounds each year.
Number and Duration
Licensing boards have expressed concerns about the long-term use of occasional licences on a continual basis for “normal trade” as there are no restrictions on the number of occasional licences which can be applied for by the holder of a premises licence or the holder of a personal licence.
As previously stated, we do have an issue with voluntary organisations applying for occasional licences, but do not see a problem with the current regulations for premises managers and personal licence holders.
Someone operating an existing licensed business has probably had very little reason to encounter an occasional licence, but for those running events or launching new businesses they can be a vital part of the enterprise.
There have been concerns that, unlike an extended hours consent, the legislation does not require an occasional licence to be for an event, although the guidance suggests that this may be the case, so it is perfectly competent for a pub or restaurant to apply for continuous occasional licences to trade on an ongoing basis or to licence an outside area which isn’t included in the premises licence. We agree that this needs to be addressed.
However, it must also be taken into account that occasionally licensees, who through no fault of their own, have to rely on continual occasional licences to open a new venture, until the full licence is confirmed. This would seem reasonable as long as these applicants can demonstrate that the licensing objectives are not compromised and they are waiting on other permissions, such as Building Standards (Section 50) certificates being completed. In fact, there is an argument that any associated costs for occasional licences applications in these circumstances should be recoverable from the appropriate council.
If the fee for occasional licences is set too high then events such as festivals, Highland games, fetes and gala days could be adversely effect. We would again reiterate that occasional licences should only be granted to suitable personal licence holders and that the licence holder should be present at the event.