Less enforcement, more balance

07 March, 2008

There are parts of the government's review of the Licensing Act that are balanced and sensible. In particular, Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport Andy Burnham has recognised that extended opening hours for drinks shops (and only a minority applied for 24-hour trading) has meant greater convenience for consumers.

But the government has also promised to "rebalance action towards enforcement and crack down on irresponsible behaviour". From where I'm sitting, it seems that there has been plenty of enforcement going on since the Act was introduced in 2005.

The goalposts have changed, with licensees now facing a "two strikes and you're out" rule, as opposed to the three strikes law previously in place.

The yellow and red card warning systems Burnham talked about as the review was published seem to me a different way of describing powers the authorities already have. Of more concern, I think, is the suggestion that whole geographic areas could be given a "black mark" with authorities given powers to withdraw all licences in that area. It's one thing to be punished if you fall foul of the law - quite another to pay for your neighbours' mistakes.

Let's hope that as the DCMS and Home Office embark on more enforcement, they remember that the off-trade has greatly improved its test purchasing results, and with Challenge 21 and similar schemes now widespread, is likely to continue doing so.

Supermarkets' local sourcing schemes

It's encouraging to see both Costcutter (page 4) and Tesco (page 6) unveiling local sourcing initiatives. It's clear that larger players now recognise that schemes such as these are very attractive to the consumer.

Yes, it's early days for both schemes, but a heartening sign of greater investment in local communities.

All change please

This will be my last issue working on Off Licence News as I'm moving across to another William Reed magazine, British Baker, as managing editor. I've been privileged to work on OLN over the past three years with a talented team of people including our former editor Graham Holter.

As I swap Merlot for muffins, Off Licence News will welcome a new editor, Rosie Davenport, who joins on March 10 from our sister pub-trade newspaper the Morning Advertiser. I'm sure Rosie will do a great job in continuing to bring you the best news, views and features in drinks retailing. All the best.

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