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Licensing Act “fundamentally flawed”, rules Lords

The Licensing Act 2003, which governs the issuing of entertainment licences for live music in the UK, is “fundamentally flawed”, a House of Lords committee has found.

Among the recommendations of the Licensing Act 2003 committee, which led a ten-month inquiry into the legislation, are the abolition of local-authority planning committees, with licensing instead integrated with planning applications; the abolition of ‘late-night levies’ – or extra charges levied on venues to pay for the cost of of policing – which were described as “fundamentally wrong in principle and in practice”; and setting of licensing fees by local government rather than nationally.

The committee also said the agent-of-change principle – which “would require anyone instigating a new building development or a change in land use […] to take into account the nearby properties and their functions”, and was introduced in a limited form last summer – should be adopted nationally in in both planning and licensing guidance, “to help protect both licensed premises and local residents from consequences arising from any new built development in their nearby vicinity”.

The inquiry additionally recommended that disabled people’s access be considered when granting licences, stating: “Scotland’s example should also be followed in helping disabled people to access licensed premises by requiring an application for a premises licence to include a disabled access statement.”

Committee chairman Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (pictured) comments: “The committee was shocked by some of the evidence it received on hearings before licensing committees. Their decisions have been described as ‘something of a lottery’, ‘lacking formality’ and ‘indifferent’, with some ‘scandalous misuses of the powers of elected local councillors’.

“Pubs, clubs and live music venues are a vital part of our cultural identity. Any decline in our cities’ world-famous nightlife ought to be prevented and the businesses supported”

“Pubs, clubs and live music venues are a vital part of our cultural identity. Any decline in our cities’ world-famous nightlife ought to be prevented and the businesses supported. But the night-time economy needs regulating; even in these areas of cities, residents have their rights. The current systems – early-morning restriction orders and late-night levies – are not being used because they do not work.”

Industry umbrella group UK Music welcomed the Lords’ recommendations, but expressed its disappointment at the failure of an amendment to the act that would have required local authorities to consider the “social or cultural benefits” of venues when granting licences.

Its chief executive, Jo Dipple, says: “We agree with the committee when it says the Licensing Act is fundamentally flawed. That is why the Live Music Act was unanimously supported when proposed as a private-member’s bill by Lord Clement-Jones. It is welcome, therefore, that the Lords’ committee report clearly recognises the impact of the Live Music Act. UK Music agrees that more needs to be done to spread awareness of its benefits to local and national government.

“UK Music asks government to take forward the Lords suggestion that a full agent-of-change principle for planning and licensing guidance be introduced. If implemented, recommendations to introduce an agent-of-change principle and ditch the late-night levy will make a big difference to the provision of music across the UK’s cities and regions. A proposed ‘fifth objective’ for licensing decisions, which would enable local authorities to weigh up positive cultural impacts, would also have helped, and it is a pity the committee did not accept this.”

 


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UK minister voices concerns over ‘anti-grime’ 696

Matt Hancock MP, the UK’s minister of state for digital and culture, has written to the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to express his concern that promoters of grime and other “urban music events” are being forced out of the capital by a controversial risk-assessment form.

‘Form 696′, a document issued by the Metropolitan police to those requesting permission to hold an event, requires potential licensees to list performers’ and promoters’ names, addresses and phone numbers, the style of music to be performed and the event’s target audience. It is the requests for information on genre and audience that are particularly controversial, with critics accusing the police of racial profiling by singling out primarily black musical styles such as grime, garage and bashment.

Hancock says form 696 risks hurting London’s embattled small-venue scene, which has only recently recovered after a long period of decline, by “pushing organisers and promoters of urban music events to take them outside London” to cities that don’t use the form.

In his letter, shared with The Independent, Hancock writes: “I am concerned that the form is not only potentially stifling young artists and reducing the diversity of London’s world-renowned musical offering, but is also having a negative impact on London’s night-time economy by pushing organisers and promoters of urban music events to take them outside London. This form is just used in London and not other UK cities.

“British music is successful because it is diverse. It is right that government is stepping in on this issue”

“I appreciate that form 696 is a risk assessment designed to allow the management of licensed premises, promoters of music events, event security and the police to work in partnership to identify and minimise any risk of serious crime happening at a proposed event. But I’m sure you will agree that anything which has the potential to impact negatively on free expression and London’s economy, while denying young people the opportunity to attend and perform at certain events, needs careful consideration.

“Genres of urban music like grime have the same significance for today’s young people as punk did in the 1970s, empowering them, creating a new generation of musical heroes and growing to become a worldwide phenomenon. I strongly believe that we should be encouraging and embracing all musical genres, building on London’s rich musical history as the city that gave us The Kinks, David Bowie, The Sex Pistols and Amy Winehouse.

“I would like to understand whether you think form 696 is serving a justified purpose and working well, or whether there is a case for changing the current system.”

Music industry umbrella group UK Music says it welcomes Hancock’s intervention. Chief executive Jo Dipple comments: “UK Music thanks the minister, who has a track record of stepping in to support British musicians. [Hancock was also instrumental in brokering the impending ban on ticket bots.]

“Genres of urban music like grime have the same significance for today’s young people as punk did in the 1970s”

“It is important to make sure form 696 is not being unfairly used against particular musical genres. Discrimination against any musician damages all of us. It reduces the diversity of our output and limits our ability to reach our economic potential.

“We ask that anyone with first-hand experience of misuse of form 696 contacts UK Music. British music is successful because it is diverse. It is right that government is stepping in on this issue and we will work with the minister, the mayor’s office and the Metropolitan police to properly examine and address any misuse of this form.”

She adds, however, that her comments should be not construed as a “criticism of the Met police, who do amazing work in very difficult circumstances”.

 


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UK Licensing Act amendment shot down in Lords

An amendment to the UK’s Licensing Act 2003 that would have compelled local authorities to consider “social or cultural” benefits when granting live music licences has been withdrawn by its sponsor.

As reported on Tuesday, figures from across the British live music industry were banking on Tim Clement-Jones’s amendment to “pave the way” for an overhaul of the controversial act, which UK Live Music Group/Live Nation’s Paul Latham said is currently interpreted by many local authorities in ways “not always helpful or consistent, which is frustrating and creates obstacles for venue operators at all levels.”

Lord Clement-Jones (pictured) tabled his amendment – which proposed making “the provision of social or cultural activities” part of the general duties of licensing authorities – on Wednesday (7 December), but withdrew the motion following opposition from government spokeswoman Carlyn Chisholm, who argued: “Requiring licensing authorities to consider the provision of social or cultural activities would run in contradiction to the other licensing objectives, all of which are aimed at harm reduction” (for example, restricting noise levels).

Lord Clement-Jones’s amendment was, however, supported by Roy Kennedy and Nicholas Trench, the Earl of Clancarty – the latter of whom quoted Mark Davyd of Music Venue Trust, calling his wish to see “grassroots music venues acknowledged and respected alongside theatres and art centres as spaces that are vital to the health, wealth and happiness of the UK” a “laudable aim”.

“I believe the Home Office has responsibility to help to preserve our venues, rather than simply saying, ‘We’ve got a very fine Licensing Act as it is'”

Baroness Chisholm expressed her support for the Licensing Act in its current form, arguing it provides for a “presumption that licensing authorities will grant a licence in respect to an application, with appropriate conditions, unless there are strong concerns in terms of the licensing objectives”.

This was met with a fiery rebuke by Lord Clement-Jones, who before withdrawing the amendment spoke of his wish that “the drip-drip of the fairly incessant rhythm – perhaps that is the right phraseology to use in connection with live music venues – of the campaign to ensure that we keep our live music venues has some effect”.

“I believe the Home Office also has responsibility in this area to help to preserve our venues, rather than simply stonewalling and saying, ‘We’ve got a very fine Licensing Act as it is and we don’t need any further objectives’,” he concluded.

“When we come to our next debate, I am sure the government will make the same argument – but they may find a rather different response when it comes to a vote.”

 


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UK industry calls for licensing overhaul

British peer Timothy Clement-Jones will tomorrow propose an amendment to the Licensing Act 2013 recognising the role music venues play in the cultural life in the UK.

Lord Clement-Jones will submit the amendment, which highlights venues’ “provision of social or cultural activities”, to the House of Lords as part of a debate on the Policing and Crime Bill. The Lords, the upper house of the British Parliament, is currently conducting a year-long investigation into the effectiveness of the much-criticised Licensing Act 2003, which regulates the UK’s music venues.

British live industry figures appeared in parliament this morning to give evidence to the Licensing Act 2003 Committee. In a joint statement, Paul Latham, COO of Live Nation and chairman of the UK Live Music Group; Alex Mann, live music official of the Musicians’ Union; and Mark Davyd, chief executive of Music Venue Trust, this afternoon called for an overhaul of the act to “make it easier to stage events and help the industry thrive”.

If passed, Lord Clement-Jones’s amendment would, says industry umbrella group UK Music, “pave the way for this new provision”.

“Licensing is just one of many areas of the legal framework around grassroots music venues that is contributing to their rapid decline”

“As leading venue operators across the UK, we strive to bring a best-in-class operation to all our venues, and that includes mutual learnings throughout our venue portfolio,” says Latham. “At all times we try to work progressively with the respective local authorities to share our learnings. Unfortunately not all local authorities are like-minded, and their interpretations of the Licensing Act are not always helpful, or consistent, which is frustrating and creates obstacles for venue operators at all levels.”

Davyd adds: “Licensing is just one of many areas of the legal framework around grassroots music venues that is contributing to their rapid decline. In the case of licensing, Music Venue Trust is not asking that a special case be made for grassroots venues. Rather, we believe a further push to support the intent of the Licensing Act 2003 – and the subsequent Live Music Act 2012 – is required, so these culturally and socially important spaces achieve parity in the manner in which the licensing framework handles and supports them.

“We want to see grassroots music venues acknowledged and respected alongside theatres and arts centres as spaces that are vital to the health, wealth and happiness of the UK.”

British live music was worth £904 million in 2015 – down from £924m in 2014 owing to a drop in revenue from grassroots venues.

 


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Peer: Venues ‘not doing enough’ to combat terror

A British peer has said licensing laws should be changed to force staff at UK music venues to undergo counter-terror training.

Ruth Henig, Baroness Henig, this morning told BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire programme she plans to table an amendment to the Licensing Act 2003 to include mandatory anti-terror training.

“There are clearly a number of venues – often the larger venues, I think, but not always – who have airport-style security, who, for example, do have metal detectors, who do have very well-trained security personnel and they top up this training regularly,” said Baroness Henig (pictured), who is also a non-executive chair of private security firm SecuriGroup.

“But I think at the other end there is a tail of venues who aren’t taking it seriously – we know this from the police – who don’t co-operate, who don’t take up the offers that are made to them and where I think there are some concerns. And the issue is, how do you get to that tail of venues who are perhaps not doing as much as they should be about security?”

“It is unfortunate Baroness Henig should have made such an ill-judged statement without contacting us”

Baroness Henig’s comments were criticised by Music Venue Trust (MVT)’s Mark Davyd, who described them as “ill-judged” and rejected claims Britain’s venues are refusing to cooperate with authorities.

“It is unfortunate Baroness Henig should have made such an ill-judged statement without contacting us,” he tells IQ. “We would have been able to reassure her that small music venues are fully engaged with [Metropolitan police counter-terrorism initiative] Project Griffin, which was presented at Venues Day 2016 and was warmly received by over 200 music venues.

“There is no evidence to suggest that music venues are averse to engage with the police or any other non-commercial security agencies when it comes to issues surrounding the safety of the public. If any grassroots music venue feels under-informed about Project Griffin, Music Venue Trust is working with the Met and we are happy to supply further information.

“We have not been made aware of any specific threat against grassroots music venues; we would urge that all public spaces, theatres, cinemas, libraries, museums, etc., should adopt the proactive approach being undertaken in this sector by MVT and the Met.”

 


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