Directors alarmed at need for staff scrutiny of entertainment licences

Thousands of licensing applications for public venues such as pubs
and restaurants will have to be looked at by social services staff
from next February, directors have warned.

Guidance with the Licensing Act 2003 requires an area child
protection committee or a social services department to look at
licence applications or changes to existing ones to assess whether
children will be protected at the premises in question.

Peter Gilroy, director of social services at Kent Council, said he
found it “very difficult to accept that this should fall under
social services” as, while the act referred to the protection of
children from harm, this was a “general duty not specific to child
protection issues”.

The Association of Directors of Social Services is planning to make
representations to the government about the additional workload the
new laws represent.

Gilroy said that Kent ACPC would be unable to scrutinise all
applications as the local licensing steering group estimated there
would be 56,000 in his council’s area during the six months from

“As the Kent child protection committee concentrates on core
business within existing time constraints, scrutinising licensing
applications is an impossibility for us in terms of both time and
resources,” he said.

Gilroy added that his local licensing authorities said the fees
raised from charging for applications would barely cover the cost
of their administration and would not be used to fund the ACPC or
social services departments to scrutinise applications.

A spokesperson for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said
that applications for premises that were just converting their
licences to bring them in line with the act would not need to be

He said that although social services and ACPCs did not have to put
forward an opinion on each application, they would still need to
look at each one in order to decide whether to do so or not.

The licensing regime takes full effect from November 2005 although
councils can begin processing applications from February.

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