The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Friday 11th December 2009 - Small gigs exemption 'pointless' claims LGA spokesman

A public rift has opened up between central and local government over licensing minister Gerry Sutcliffe's proposed consultation on a new entertainment licensing exemption for small venues.

Commenting in The Publican today, Chris White, chair of the Local Government Association's Culture, Tourism and Sport Board said:

'Common sense measures to allow pubs and bars to put on live music with a minimum of bureaucracy are already in place and make further amendments pointless.'

Chris White is also a Liberal Democrat councillor in St Albans - the town where pubs and restaurants are subject to scores of licence conditions restricting the number of performers and even genres of music:

Mr White and his council's treatment of live music has already come to the attention of the licensing minister. Restrictions on live music in St Albans were raised during the Westminster Hall licensing debate of 22nd October. During the debate, Mr Sutcliffe suggested to Liberal Democrat MP Richard Younger-Ross that his party might help bring Mr White into line:

'I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman [Richard Younger-Ross] for raising the concerns felt by local government and the Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services-LACORS. He has an opportunity to help us because Councillor Chris White, who is a lead member of the Local Government Association on these issues, is a Liberal Democrat. His authority, St. Albans, and its attitude to some of these issues, has been mentioned today. We can get this provision through if we have all-party support. I will be looking for the support of the hon. Gentleman to ensure that people such as Councillor White follow what he suggests.'

But Mr White's comments today not only put him in opposition to Lib Dems in Parliament, but also for the first time place the LGA in direct public opposition to the government on this issue.

His statements were made in the wake of an LGA poll of licensing officers which apparently found that 90% believe a new exemption would lead to more noise complaints.

As usual, however, the LGA is silent on the range of legislation already available irrespective of licensing to tackle noise from pubs or indeed any other premises. This includes pre-emptive or reactive noise abatement notices under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, fines under the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, and fines under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 (which covers noise nuisance coming from a dwelling or garden between 11pm and 7am).

Mr White has also missed the point that a new exemption would not only benefit pubs, but potentially any small venue considering having some live music. The Licensing Act defines premises as 'any place'. A new exemption could help schools, hospitals, care homes, village halls and a host of other places where live music could be a regular secondary activity.


Hamish Birchall