The Live Music Forum

Hamish Birchall Circular

Friday 18th November 2011 - More council scaremongering over music reforms

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea is the latest council to use the press to scare the public over the DCMS entertainment licensing deregulation consultation, which closes on 03 December:

'Kensington and Chelsea fears the Carnival, the biggest event of its kind in Europe, will have the freedom to play music 24 hours a day, provided audiences are not over 5,000 and alcohol sales stay within permitted hours.'

Council leader Nick Paget-Brown said: 'Far from being meddlesome, pointless bureaucracy, entertainment licences are actually how we ensure that noise is controlled, that events close down at a reasonable time and that landlords act responsibly.'

But these comments are are both ludicrous and misleading.  The audience for the carnival procession exceeds one million, but entertainment on moving vehicles is in any case explicitly exempt from entertainment licensing (Licensing Act 2003, Sch. 1, para 12 'Vehicles in motion'). This exemption was created in 2002 by DCMS (in the then Licensing Bill) after discussions with carnival organisers.  You can drive a lorry slowly around the streets 24 hours a day, with powerfully amplified music, live or recorded, without any entertainment permission under the Act.

Moreover, even if you accept the argument that restricting the number of performers and genres of music has any significant bearing on noise nuisance, the council is misrepresenting the DCMS deregulation proposals as they would apply to pubs and bars.

As has already been widely publicised, under paragraph 2.25 of the DCMS deregulation document, licence conditions in alcohol licensed premises would remain.  A condition limiting live music to two days a week, for example, and only until 10pm, would remain in force - even though the entertainment itself would no longer be licensable.  Licensees would not be able to extend that time using a Temporary Event Notice because the entertainment is no longer licensable.  The only way they could change these restrictions would be to apply to remove them using either a 'minor variation' (89) or a full variation applications (over 1500 including advertising costs).  The outcome of such an application would remain at the local authority discretion.

So for most pubs, bars and restaurants, the DCMS entertainment licence deregulation proposals would not cut any red tape at all.  And licensing officers could still threaten a criminal prosecution for having more than two musicians in a venue with a two-performer licence condition.

Meanwhile, thanks to the Licensing Act, all bars and pubs can provide big screen broadcast entertainment, and most can provide DJs without conditions.


Hamish Birchall