James Lowman of ACS notes the irony in the government's 'rebalancing' of the Licensing Act

Here are some facts about alcohol: consumption is down on the past three years; violent crime and anti-social behaviour have seen significant decline; fewer young people are drinking this year than last; and across the UK there are a range of excellent community-based partnerships with business, police and locals working together to challenge disorder and attitudes.

That's why it is deeply frustrating that, in spite of protestations about evidence-based policy-making, government appears compelled to impose politically populist changes that put progress at risk.

In the past week ACS has submitted our views on the 28 changes to licensing law being considered by Ministers. When dealing with these types of proposals, we try incredibly hard to be constructive. We accept the need for tough regulations that allow communities and agencies to apply rules and limits to the where, how and when alcohol is sold.

This works only when there is balance. We need tough responsibilities on licensees to make sure they're held accountable, but this needs to be accompanied by rights for retailers: rights to receive a fair and impartial hearing; assurance that limits or penalties imposed are based on evidence; and when a retailer has a genuine reason to feel aggrieved they should have a right of appeal.

It is ironic that Ministers are calling this 'Rebalancing the Licensing Act' when in reality the tenor of their approach is to take balance away from system and give complete power to the enforcers.

In the world away from the media headlines, retailers and licensing authorities are finding practical solutions to problems in their community. If retailers see their rights taken away, many will retreat from the partnership approach we so want to encourage.