I’ll start with the punchline. As of April 1 you no longer needed to renew your personal licence to sell alcohol. Now the unfunny joke: it’s a pity that Wigan Council didn’t know that and put a few retailers through a very trying time.
The reader who rang me wanted to warn others, but he doesn’t want to be named in case the council gives him a further hard time (he overestimates C-Store’s reach - I don’t think too many councils are on our tightly-controlled circulation list).
His 10-year licence was due to run out on April 12. He got a call from the council on April 8 asking him why he hadn’t submitted a renewal. He had three days left, but renewals must go in one month ahead. He remonstrated with them for not notifying him, but they said they didn’t have to, even though they managed to send out reminders every year to renew his licence fee.
He was told that he would have to pass the exam again and get a designated premises supervisor to cover meanwhile. The next course, in May in Bolton, would cost £170 plus £58 for the paperwork.
When he rang with this warning he said he knew of four others in the same boat.
Then, after all these frantic arrangements, the council rang him back to say they now had clearer Home Office guidelines and, hey presto, he no longer had to do anything and would now get a lifelong licence. He said: “What about the stress you put me through?” And they said: “Well, that’s just how it goes.”
Bureaucracy at its finest.