Friday, 20 December 2013

Licensing Board: plan to tackle alcohol-related problems

North Ayrshire Licensing Board has explained the role it plays in attempting to address alcohol-related problems in the local area.

A spokesperson for the Board said, “Unfortunately, North Ayrshire sits at the wrong end of the table when it comes to alcohol-related issues, such as poor health, violence, anti-social behaviour, deprivation and domestic abuse.  These problems have increased at the same time as alcohol has become cheaper and more widely available - resulting in an estimated cost to each resident of £800 a year.”

The Licensing Board is administered by North Ayrshire Council, with a small group of elected councillors appointed to take decisions in relation to the licensing of premises allowed to sell alcohol.  The spokesperson said, “The Board has a vital role to play in reducing the impact of alcohol” on local people and communities.  In coming to decisions, Licensing Board members take into account information supplied by NHS Ayrshire & Arran, Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue.

The Convener of the local Licensing Board, Saltcoats & Stevenston Independent councillor Ronnie McNicol, said, “Ayrshire has the highest rate of under-age teenagers admitted to hospital for alcohol related-issues in the UK.  With eight North Ayrshire communities being more than twice the national average for admissions, it is clear that action is vital.”

Cllr McNicol noted, “Evidence suggests that the average Scot drinks 21 units a week and that 1-in-20 deaths are directly related to alcohol.  Given more than half of Scotland’s population are female – whose recommended alcohol limit is 14 units – or do not drink at all, it is clear that a significant number of people regularly drink well in excess of the recommended limit.”

The Independent councillor acknowledged the Licensing Board “cannot change drinking habits overnight”, adding, “but we do have the opportunity to make sure we are moving in the right direction.  This is why we have agreed to an approach that will recommend the refusal of licences unless the applicant can make a very strong case.

“Any decision we make is based on the application presented to us.  Our licensing policy gives us a firm foundation that allows us to make informed decisions, and also lets applicants see what is expected of them.”

The Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 requires the Board to take into account five principles when making any decision.  Referred to as the ‘Licensing Objectives’, these are: preventing crime and disorder; securing public safety; preventing public nuisance; protecting and improving public health; and protecting children from harm.

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