Memorandum submitted by the Committee of Registered Clubs Association

 
 

 

Introduction

 

1. I am responding on behalf of CORCA to your invitation to submit its views on the effects of the Licensing Act 2003 for consideration by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.

 

CORCA comprises the club organisations listed on this letterhead which together represent about 4500 affiliated non-profit making private members' clubs in England and Wales. These are working men's, political, ex-service, coal industry welfare clubs; and a small number of West End Clubs on whose behalf the Association of London Clubs may be making a separate submission.

 

2. Our comments on the five aspects about which the Committee seeks views are as follows:

 

(i) Public Nuisance etc

 

From a necessarily limited clubs perspective we are not aware of any significant change in regard to public nuisance, night- time offences, or public safety. The commercial sector, regulators, police and the general public participating in the evening and late night urban economy could more meaningfully contribute a view. Some of our clubs have experienced an increase in regulatory action in response to alleged noise disturbance.

 

(ii) Live Music

 

The performance of live music in CORCA member clubs has not lessened by virtue of the direct impact of the 2003 Act; more particularly it has reduced because of cost cutting enforced by a significant downturn in clubs' financial capacity due to a variety of factors including Licensing Act costs.

 

(iii) Clubs - Financial Impact

 

(a) The main financial impact of the Act on our clubs arose from the requirement to convert from registration under the Licensing Act 1964 to authorisation by Club Premises Certificate (CPC). This involved producing premises plans, advertising and lengthy form filling. It fell to CORCA organisations to educate their member clubs in the relevant procedures but some clubs resorted to legal practitioners at additional cost. A club could well have incurred associated costs (over and above Licensing Act fees) of up to 1000.

 

(b) The 2003 Act fees structure based on rateable value makes no distinction between commercial premises and not for profit private members' clubs. A typical club falls into Band B so the fee for migrating from the 1964 Act to the 2003 Act was 190, with an annual fee thereafter of 180. This is massively in excess of the 16 payable previously to renew a 1964 Act Registration which magistrates had discretion to grant for up to 10 years duration. Our understanding is that the Elton Committee's review of fees concluded that they should be further increased across the board by about 7% from 2007/08, though as far as we are aware Ministers have yet to respond. We appreciate that fees are intended to effect full cost recovery but question the blunt instrument approach adopted, based apparently on the purported savings in administrative costs to licensees of 99 million a year (DCMS evaluation paper March 2008). We would contend that little if any of this saving accrued to clubs. The merger of several licensing regimes into a single uniform system mainly benefited commercial operators, the principal gain being the demise of public entertainment licensing which, given their private character, rarely applied to CORCA clubs.

 

(iv) Bureaucracy

 

(a) The Act is in our view significantly more bureaucratic for clubs than the old registration system and

its requirements involved a huge culture change. The forms are lengthy and not user friendly for lay people who run clubs; they were never "road tested" on the user population. Notices of applications must be displayed at the applicant premises for public viewing, the application advertised in the local press, and premises plans drawn up and submitted to the licensing authority. Each application must also be copied to several "responsible authorities". The main derogation for private clubs is that they are not required to have a "designated premises supervisor" (DPS) holding a personal licence; and there are now moves afoot to bring in a "minor variations" procedure provided the variation concerned does not impact adversely on the licensing objectives.

 

(b) To assist financial viability CORCA clubs make use of the Temporary Event Notice (TEN)

facility e.g. for non-member events; they also organise fund raising events on behalf of charitable and community causes. The Act's quantitive restrictions e.g. maximum of 12 TENs per calendar year is in our view unnecessarily restrictive and some of our clubs therefore apply for premises licences to run alongside their CPCs. This involves additional application costs, the full licence application procedure, the acquisition of a personal licence for a DPS and a doubling up in statutory fees.

 

We also question the rationale for restricting a club to 5 TENs per individual signatory which means that a club utilising the full number of TENs in a year has to involve three different officials as signatories. In the club context where all events on the premises are within the control of the committee, it would be logical for a single official e.g. the club Secretary to sign all 12 notices. The present requirements are unnecessarily bureaucratic for clubs although they may be justified for other premises e.g. village halls to prevent a single individual or group monopolising an entire year's entitlement.

 

(v) Anticipated Financial Savings

 

As stated in (iii) above we do not accept that the substantial savings projected will accrue to our

clubs, quite the reverse as the impact of the Act on them has been regulatory rather than

deregulatory with significant additional costs.

 

September 2008