Trade associations have called on the government to make the Licensing Act clearer and more consistent to end the confusion retailers and local authorities face during its implementation.

A review of the Licensing Act Guidance was set up in December last year by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and comes in two stages. The first focuses on clarifying the Guidance and publishing supplementary Guidance by the end of March. The second phase will include a full public consultation with the aim of producing a new version of the Guidance by the end of the year.

Both the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) and the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) have consulted the government over a need for reducing red tape and ensuring a more consistent approach from local authorities.

ACS public affairs manager James Lowman said: “All retailers ask for is consistency and a need for clarity to be taken into account during the review. At present there seem to be differences between how different local authorities interpret the Licensing Act, which has meant confusion for retailers.”

The issue was highlighted at a United Co-op store in Dean Mount, Greater Manchester, which under Trading Standards supervision had to close for 20 minutes when it was discovered that the licence holder had not made proper provision to authorise a member of staff to sell alcohol in her absence.

A United Co-op spokesman said: “Trading Standards found she had not put in place the proper measures. The matter was rectified in 20 minutes and we are looking at our whole estate to make sure this problem doesn’t arise again.”