PLHs due to renew their licence must act now on refresher training, lawyers and training firms say
FOLLOWING months of uncertainty, and repeated calls for clarity from licensing lawyers and training firms, the Scottish Government finally clarified what is required of personal licence holders (PLHs) who obtained their licences on or before September 1, 2009, in order to renew their licences.
PLHs whose licences will expire on August 31, 2019 must complete a refresher training course in order to renew their personal licence – and licensing lawyers and training firms are urging those affected to act now: book a refresher training course as soon as possible and lodge the renewal application ahead of the deadline on May 31, 2019.
Audrey Junner, a partner at Hill Brown Licensing, was among those to stress the importance of booking a refresher course as quickly as possible.
She said: “Courses are expected to book up quickly, so those leaving it until the last minute could find themselves struggling to find availability. The government’s advice is to lodge your renewal with your refresher at the time, ie. by May 31, 2019; this kills two birds with one stone.”
This was echoed by Niall Hassard of TLT who said renewing a licence and refreshing training simultaneously “reduces the margin for error and will safeguard your personal licence”.
John Grant, senior associate at Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie, warned that he expects there “will be problems in the run up to the end of May 2019” due to the delay in clarity from the Scottish Government.
He also criticised the government’s ‘communications document’ about the renewals process, which was released on August 6 and appeared to contradict the Licensing Act.
Grant described the document as “flawed and incomplete”, adding that Holyrood would do well to “listen to the representations of those who are intimately involved in the industry, rather than appearing just to pay ‘lip service’ to an extremely important part of the Scottish economy”.
Similarly, Andrew Hunter of Harper Macleod said the handling of the process to date “has been haphazard and somewhat shambolic”.
“Guidance issued on the process was recalled due to errors and is being reissued,” he said.
“There is still a question mark over whether or not the guidance is strictly in line with the provisions of the 2005 Act. The reality is more likely that licensing board clerks are going to have to adopt a process that works for renewals.”
Jack Cummins of Hill Brown Licensing criticised the delay in clarity from the Scottish Government, adding, “going forward we need a radical simplification of processes that are just too complicated”.
Some went even further; Hunter of Harper Macleod has called for a move to follow the English approach and scrap the ten-year renewal process altogether.
Beyond PLH renewal, licensees should ensure that compliance training is up to date, according to Paul Chase of training firm CPL Training.
Hunter of Harper Macleod said the setting of new licensing board policy statements in November is also likely to generate some change for the trade.
“There will be trade interest not only in the wording of these statements, but how the boards seek to apply the policies in practice, most particularly in relation to overprovision,” explained Hunter.
Junner of Hill Brown Licensing said some boards are proposing “fairly radical” changes, including Aberdeen City licensing board, which has put forward a draft policy that, if approved, will allow pubs in the city centre to apply for a two-hour extension to their terminal trading hour.
Submitting a licence renewal late: what’s the risk?
“The worst case scenario is that failure to apply for renewal will result in the personal licence lapsing. If this person is the named business premises licence manager, then he/she will require to be replaced. This is easy enough if you are a larger business that employs more than one personal licence holder (PLH). Small businesses with only one PLH may face periods when alcohol cannot be sold – that is until a fresh application for a personal licence is made.”
– Andrew Hunter, Harper Macleod.