The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Bulletin

Friday 13th May 2011 - Rise to the Red Tape Challenge

As part of a renewed drive to cut red tape, the Government has launched a website - Red Tape Challenge - seeking public feedback on the Licensing Act:
Should licensing regulations be simplified, reduced or scrapped altogether? Comments include these from Louise McMullan, Parliament & Research officer for Equity, the performers union:
'We remain of the opinion that the inclusion of regulated entertainment in the Licensing Act 2003 is not necessary and has greatly increased bureaucracy for very little benefit to the licensing objectives.'
But despite the pledge to cut red tape, and government support for Lord Clement-Jones' live music bill, licensing problems for live music are likely to get worse before they get better.
Ironically, the cause will be the very legislation cited on Red Tape Challenge as the remedy for antisocial behaviour and alcohol-related crime: the Police Reform and Social Responsibility bill, expected to gain Royal Assent by the autumn.
The bill includes these measures which will entangle live music in more licensing red tape:
a) Councils will be allowed to impose conditions on Temporary Event Notices (TENs), the licence required if the premises is not already licensed for live music. At present only the police are allowed to object on crime and disorder grounds;
b) anyone within a council area will be allowed to object to a licence application, not just those living in the vicinity of the venue; and
c) the evidence test for imposing licence conditions will lowered from 'necessary' to 'appropriate'.
Lord Clement-Jones has already questioned the need for these changes, and warned of the potential problem.  During Parliamentary debate on 27 April he said:
'Where is the justification for these changes? Where is the evidence that these additional powers of objection are needed? Are we just creating more bureaucracy for community groups for no purpose? What price the big society and local initiative?'
Once again it looks as though within Government there are contradictory approaches to the regulation of live music.  Which has the upper hand is likely to remain uncertain until the Committee stage of Lord Clement-Jones' live music bill, for which a date has yet to be announced.

Hamish Birchall