Table of Contents
The Crucial Role of Local Licensing Forums
Local Licensing Forums play a crucial role at the heart of the licensing system. When they operate effectively, Forums provide Licensing Boards with community-based feedback that enhances their awareness of the impact of policies on the local community and trade.
Section 10 of the 2005 Act requires every local authority to establish a Forum for their area. The membership, administration, and other procedural matters are set out in Schedule 2 of the 2005 Act. Forums have general functions and certain duties placed on Licensing Boards.
Licensing Boards should provide administrative support to Forums, enabling them to carry out their role effectively. It is important for local authorities to establish, support, and sustain Forums while adopting their own individual working practices.
The role of Forums is to keep under review the operation of the licensing system in their area and provide advice and recommendations to the Licensing Board. Forums are also statutory consultees in the formulation of the statement of licensing policy.
Forums can make suggestions for policy or procedural matters and request a review of the statement of licensing policy in case of material changes. They can also assist with the Licensing Board’s overprovision assessment through evidence gathering, analysis, and consultation.
The management of business
Forums can develop a work plan at the start of each year to focus their discussions in meetings with the local Licensing Board. They should be provided with relevant statistics, information, and reports to facilitate their work and work plan.
Forums can request regular reports from the police, health, and Licensing Standards Officers. The chief constable must send an annual report to the Forum on matters relating to policing and preventing the sale of alcohol to minors.
The Effective Local Licensing Forum: Independent, Expert, Trusted
An effective Forum should be recognized as both independent and expert. To ensure independence, the Forum must have a separate identity from the Licensing Board or any other interest group. It must have the capacity to be impartial.
The 2005 Act requires a local Licensing Standards Officer to be a member of the Forum, providing an important link to the licensing system’s operation. At least one member must be nominated by the relevant Health Board.
Forums should comprise a balanced representation of relevant interests and have knowledge of licensing matters. A Forum dominated by a specific viewpoint is unlikely to be impartial. They should identify key licensing issues and develop constructive advice to address them.
Forums can gain expertise through training in licensing law, attending Licensing Board meetings, and presentations from stakeholders. Establishing links with relevant bodies responsible for alcohol action plans and responsible retail organizations can enhance their effectiveness.
By providing impartial and effective advice, Forums can gain the trust of the Licensing Board and the local community. They can support informed conversations about licensing and alcohol consumption in everyday life, reaching solutions through collaboration.
An Inclusive and Diverse Approach to Involvement
The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015 promotes effective engagement and participation for communities to have greater control. The National Standards for Community Engagement provide good-practice principles to guide the engagement process.
Forums should strive to encourage wider community involvement and overcome barriers to participation. Clear purposes, effective working methods, and regular communication with the community are essential. The impact of engagement should be assessed and used to improve future participation.
Members are appointed to the Forum by the local authority, ensuring balanced representation of stakeholders. Forums consist of between 5 and 21 members, with at least one Licensing Standards Officer and one member nominated by the Health Board.
Forums should regularly review membership to optimize engagement and ensure representation of the local community’s interests. Various methods can be used to encourage participation, such as involving representative organizations, targeting appropriate officers, and engaging with local communities through various means.
Forum members should have a solid understanding of the 2005 Act and the functions of the Forum. A constitution or remit document can provide relevant information in one place. Regular communication with the constituency of interest is crucial.
Establishing and maintaining an effective Forum is the responsibility of the local authority. Consistency of representation, publicizing agendas and minutes, and providing opportunities for members to meet stakeholders can contribute to the Forum’s success.
Achieving a Culture of Participation
Addressing challenges of low participation and unbalanced representation requires considering the Forum’s constitution and actively encouraging applications. Forums should review and improve their processes based on member feedback. Managing conflicts and differences of opinion should be addressed beforehand.
Effective communication is essential for the successful operation of the Forum. Identifying communication needs, developing an action plan, and ensuring open and transparent communication are key. Video conferencing and teleconference facilities can improve accessibility, particularly for rural areas.
An effective Local Licensing Forum plays a vital role in representing the interests of the local community and ensuring a diverse range of views are considered by Licensing Boards. It is important to create an inclusive and supportive environment where all stakeholders can participate and be heard. Open and transparent communication, balanced representation, and active engagement are crucial for the successful operation of the Forum. By adhering to these principles, Forums can enhance the effectiveness of the licensing system and contribute to the betterment of the local community.