Govt. Drags Heels On Licensing

The UK government has been charged with making promises about looking into the licensing of small venues but doing nothing about it.

Two weeks ago it promised to launch a 12-week consultation into exempting venues with capacities of up to 100, but it seems that’s the last that anyone’s heard of it.

“We have heard nothing more about this other than a brief statement in parliament, which seems devoid of any meaningful intent,” said UK Music chief exec Feargal Sharkey.

“It is very disappointing that the government is constantly and endlessly debating this and seems incapable of dealing with the situation in hand. It is increasing everyone’s level of frustration and even anger.”

Campaigners are looking for a change in the 2003 Licensing Act, which became effective in 2005, because they believe the time and money it costs to obtain a live music license hinders small venues.

Major artists including Sting have warned that a review of the licensing laws is vital or “the creative ground that has served music so well over the years will disappear forever.”

Liberal Democrat peer Tim Clement-Jones doesn’t think the government’s proposal to exempt venues with capacities up to 100 goes far enough.

He’s written a parliamentary private member’s bill that would exempt a range of venues up to 200 capacity. He says the government’s announcement of a consultation period is a “complete damp squib” and that it’s “extraordinary” that two weeks have passed and no consultation paper has emerged.

“Was this announcement genuine or was it to wrong-foot the debate? If it was genuine, the government has to prove that by acting now,” he said, questioning why no timetable has been given and the government has gone quiet.

The campaigners are also concerned there is not enough time before the next general election to change the act and criticised an apparent lack of political will to take the small venue exemption forward.