Local Councillors are concerned that current legislation prevents them from making representations in their own right when licensing applications are considered.
This was the message delivered by Chelmsford Borough Council during a debate at the Local Government Association Conference in Brighton. Speaking on behalf of the council, Councillor David Lee criticised legislation that only allows elected members to make representations on applications in their own ward if they are specifically requested to do so by their residents.
â€œWe do not consider this to be satisfactory,â€? said Cllr. Lee. â€œThere are numerous reasons why a resident might not feel comfortable making this request â€“ fear over putting their name in the public domain, lack of awareness about an application, uncertainty over the process, lack of confidence.â€?
â€œWard councillors know their areas and communities. If we are doing our job correctly, we know where there are problems, where there are disturbances, crime and disorder or community safety issues. Councillors in Chelmsford want to be local leaders and to speak and act for their communities, yet we feel that this legislation is restricting us from doing so.â€?
The councilâ€™s views were aired during a debate hosted by LACORS on whether we are seeing the benefits of licensing locally. The debate was chaired by Cllr. Geoffrey Theobold OBE, LACORS and the speakers were Andrew Ramsay, Director-General (Creativity, Culture & Economy) DCMS, Cllr. Sir Simon Milton, Leader of Council & Chairman of Cabinet, Westminster City Council and Cllr. David Lee.
Cllr. Lee commented: â€œI was delighted to get the opportunity to voice the concerns of Chelmsford Borough Council on the national stage. Chelmsford town centre has an increasingly vibrant night-time economy and the Licensing Act 2003 left us with many applications to consider. Whilst we dealt with these in a timely and efficient manner, many councillors here have become frustrated. We feel barred from having our say.â€?
The government has promised a review of the licensing procedures in the near future. Chelmsford Borough Council hopes that they will seriously consider any feedback provided by local councils. ENDS
Notes to Editors
Â· Councillor David Lee represents Moulsham and Central ward. He is Cabinet Member for Corporate Resources, chairs the Property Development Steering Group and serves as Vice-Chairman of the Licensing Committee.
Â· During a meeting of Chelmsford Borough Council on 25 January 2006 Councillor Lee tabled a motion recommending that the council lobby the Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, Local Members of Parliament, the Local Government Association and the Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) on the matter. The motion was unanimously carried with cross party support.
Â· After lobbying LACORS Chelmsford Borough Council was invited to speak at a licensing debate they were hosting at the Local Government Association Conference 2006.
The Licensing Act 2003 also prevents Parish Councillors, Town Councillors, County Councillors and Members of Parliament, both Westminster and European, from making representations on applications within their areas unless specifically requested to do so by an â€œinterested partyâ€?.