The Government’s new alcohol licensing decisions will give retailers fairer hearings and the freedom to sell when and how they like.

Following severe criticism in the House of Lords report on licensing, the Government said it will build in extra training and guidance for local council licensing committee members to fix what has been described as an “inescapably haphazard” process that often leaves retailers unfairly penalised.

Director of Licensing Matters and former licensing police officer Gill Sherratt praised the upcoming changes to the hearings. She said: “I’m glad they tackled training. The current actions of some committees is so absurd that you wouldn’t even dream it. Any move to standardise and improve standards can only be applauded.”

Another major victory for retailers is the decision to remove clauses that made police evidence more important than any other evidence provided.

In one licensing subcommittee attended by Retail Express, police officers claimed they spoke to a store owner in his premises on a certain date. Evidence later showed the store owner was not in the UK at the time.

Sherratt told Retail Express: “Quite rightly, police evidence must be scrutinised just like any other evidence.”

Also in favour of retailers, the Government rejected calls to further restrict what alcohol retailers could sell and how. These calls included allowing councils to ban sales of super-strength drinks across whole areas, adding public health objectives to licence applications and banning alcohol deals such as multi-buys and discounts.

ACS CEO James Lowman supported the Government’s decision to not restrict retailer sales, stating that additional demands are not needed. “The convenience sector has already taken steps to reduce alcohol harm in communities,” he added.

Public health objectives would have allowed councils to restrict the number of alcohol licences granted, the hours a shop opens and the type of alcohol products on sale based on local health issues such as obesity and alcohol abuse.

Despite the Government’s response to the House of Lords report on the Licensing Act being largely in favour of convenience stores, there were exceptions. It hinted that it is considering increasing the duty on beers and ciders that are just below 7.5% and said it may announce an overall alcohol duty increase later this month.

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