Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Additional memorandum submitted by Westminster City Council (PR 85)

1. Police and Crime Commissioners and Police and Community Crime Panels

1.1 In London the Mayor’s Office is already closely associated with the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA), and as detailed within the Bill, the existence of a Mayoral Office for London removes the need for electing a new commissioner for Boroughs across London. We understand that the Deputy Mayor for Crime and Policing, Kit Malthouse, is likely to take on the function of London’s Police and Crime Commissioner, although this is yet to be formalised. We await further guidance on the appointment of a Police and Crime Commissioner for London.

1.2 In London we understand that the newly formed London Crime Reduction Board will take on the function of a Police and Community Crime Panel for London. We believe that this is a sensible way to deliver this new approach.

1.3 Whilst local authorities will need to reflect the Mayor’s priorities in delivering their crime reduction responsibilities, it will be important to ensure that we retain the flexibility to respond to local priorities and are able to address concerns at borough level.

2. Amendments to Community Safety Partnerships

2.1 The ability to combine Community Safety Partnerships across force boundaries is a useful additional flexibility, especially given the need for Councils to cons ider new approaches to joint wo rking. However , it may be more appropriate to consider joint working on individual issues of joint concern rather than simple mergers.

3. Amendments to the Licensing Act; health as responsible bodies, powers to apply licensing levies

3.1 Westminster is one of the UK’s largest licensing authorities. Within 8 ½ miles we license over 3000 premises under the Licensing Act 2003 alone and we’re responsible for managing the West End – the UK’s premier entertainment district. Despite accounting for less than 6 per cent of the City’s geographical area, our five Stress Areas contain 36 per cent of the licensed premises in the area. Clearly this concentration of licensed premises has consequences for the council in keeping the city safe and clean for residents and visitors.

3.2 Westminster shares a public health director with our Primary Care Trust, and our Environmental Health team already comments on licensing applications from a public health perspective.

I. Late Night Levy

3.3 Westminster takes great interest in the proposed introduction of a Late Night Levy and we look forward to receiving more details on how it will work and the proposed cost schedule. However, whilst we welcome the proposal for a Late Night Levy as a short-term solution, Westminster would favour a less prescriptive approach shaped more by the needs of the local community and the services required as a result of the activities that go on in the area.

3.4 The 30-70 split of Late Night Levy funding between licensing authorities and local police fails to take account of the significant responsibilities for councils in licensing enforcement or in dealing with the negative impact of the late night economy on the commercial and residential environment.

II. Licensing Cost Recovery

3.5 Reform of the licensing fee regime is necessary and we support the Government’s recent intimation that it will ‘enable licensing authorities to set licensing fees based on full cost recovery’. Under the current charging regime many licensing authorities have been required to subsidise the licensing process from the public purse. This has been to the detriment of residents who are asked to pick up the tab for the additional costs caused by the high concentration of licensed premises in areas like the West End.

3.6 We appreciate the Government’s willingness to dispense with the top-down directives that prescribe one-size-fits-all fee levels without any regard to local circumstances. Current national fee bands are not only set at an inappropriate levels but are too narrow to reflect the range of impact that different licensed premises, of different size and category, operating at different hours of the day, can have on the local environment. The current legislation endorses a situation that sees large premises open longer into the night have their licensing costs subsidised by smaller premises with more limited opening hours.

3.7 Westminster’s response to the Home Office’s Licensing Act Consultation advocated the inclusion of prevention of health harm as an objective that should be included in the development of local licensing policy rather than applied to individual applications. We would be interested to hear more detail on the role that health bodies will play as ‘responsible authorities’. In practice Westminster already has good links to key local institutions and would always give the utmost credence to representations from police, health and other bodies.

4. Parliament Square

4.1 As the responsible local authority for this area, we want to ensure that we can help to deliver an effective, long term solution to the problem of ant-social protest and we have been working for several years with the current and previous governments to deliver a long-term solution to the problem of anti-social protest in Parliament Square. This is a complex area and the attached notes set out in more detail our position on Parliament Square.

4.2 We are however concerned that the bill in its current form will not deliver the solution that we are all seeking. Its small area of effect, limited powers in respect of structures, and complex system of permissions means that we run the risk of perpetuating the problems caused by overlapping jurisdictions and ambiguous powers. A single, comprehensive legislative solution will be far more welcome to the public and all those who seek to enjoy the square – a key element in one of London’s four World Heritage Sites.

4.3 We agree with the need to facilitate democratic protest, and the current situation actually impedes this. Prohibitions on erecting structures around Parliament Square will not impede those who wish to demonstrate outside Parliament - however it will ensure that the area cannot be dominated by a small group of people who refuse to leave.

4.4 We therefore propose a series of amendments to the bill which would deliver the twin aims of improving management of this area, whilst supporting human rights and ensuring that everyone can enjoy this important public space.

January 2011