Fresh calls to scrap licence renewals

Lawyers and trade groups want ten-year lifespan ditched

PLHs must renew the licence every ten years

By Gillian McKenzie

FRESH calls for the Scottish Government to scrap the requirement for renewing personal licences have been issued amid ongoing uncertainty over the training requirements for the first ‘batch’ of licences due for renewal by September 1, 2019.

Licensing lawyers and trade groups want the ten-year lifespan of personal licences ditched, saying ending it would cut costs and administrative burdens for businesses and licensing boards.

The latest calls to scrap the renewals process come amid ongoing uncertainty over the training requirements and cost implications for the first batch of personal licence holders whose licences expire on August 31, 2019. The 2005 Licensing Act states that PLHs must submit a renewal application and SCPLH certificate to the licensing board by May 31, 2019; the five-yearly refresher training requirement for personal licences must also be completed by August 31, 2019 and evidence of that submitted to the board by November 30, 2019.

However, guidance issued by the Scottish Government on August 6 said it is “recommending these processes (renewal and refresher) should be dealt with at the same time by sitting a further refresher training course”.The government is also in the process of setting a renewal fee; a consultation on a proposal of £50 closed on August 15.

Licensing lawyer Jack Cummins said there is “no convincing case for the retention of personal licence renewals”, and called on the Scottish Government to follow Westminster’s lead, which ditched the renewal requirement three years ago.

“It would make sense to scrap renewals and just keep the refresher requirement,” he said.

“Otherwise, if the Scottish Government remains intent on keeping renewals, it should put the current “recommendation” [that refresher training is sufficient for licence renewals] on a proper legal footing and end the current uncertainty”.

Licensing lawyer Janet Hood said the reintroduction of the ‘fit and proper’ test means there is no need for the existing renewals process.

“I think scrapping renewals would make sense as we now have the fit and proper test, which can be brought in at any time by police and LSOs,” she said. “It means if something goes awry a licence holder can be brought in front of the board.”

Willie Macleod, executive director in Scotland at UK Hospitality, said scrapping the renewals process would remove a “considerable administrative burden for both businesses and local authorities”. “The current requirement for personal licence holders to renew is a cost burden that businesses can do without and an administrative hassle for licensing boards.”

Paul Waterson of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association said: “The trade is very much better for the PLH system and the training culture that’s been built since 2009. There needs to be a balance between the obvious benefits of training and the practicalities of the system.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “The licensing system is operated by independent licensing boards. We are keen to support the renewals process and we have issued a communications document for personal licence holders, the trade and licensing boards to ensure the effective communication of arrangements to all stakeholders. We recommend that affected personal licence holders book and undertake their refresher training now and submit their renewal applications as soon as possible ahead of the deadline on May 31, 2019.”