A damning report has criticised the government for the way the new Licensing Act was introduced, saying that licensees had to deal with late regulations and guidance, inconsistent advice, unclear information and inadequate support.

The study by the local government committee of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) blamed errors by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as well as the ODPM itself for putting too much pressure on local authorities to consider applications in a two-month period last summer.

It said that, as a result, applicants were disadvantaged and local authorities were put under unnecessary strain. It added that the government took too long to produce statutory guidance.

Philip Dawber, who manages Healds in Bury, Lancashire, lives three miles away from his store in a different local authority area. He said: “Greater Manchester thought I needed to get a personal licence from them, but because the law says you need to get one where you live I got it from the Lancashire authority. It took quite a bit of sorting.”
He added: “It was badly thought out - there should be a central database so all authorities know what’s going on.”

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association welcomed the findings and said it had seen serious problems in the way the Act had been implemented, including inconsistent
interpretation, poor administration and severe delays in processing applications. Chief executive Jeremy Beadles said: “Many companies are still waiting for licences four months after the Act came into force. An increased regulatory burden coupled with rises in costs of nearly 1,000% have had a serious impact on businesses.”

ACS spokesman Shane Brennan added that the system was still confusing for retailers, some of whom had yet to receive a licence, or had received the wrong type. “We hope the government will come up with clearer guidance very soon,” he said.