1.2.2 The roles of councils under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012
Local councils have a range of powers and responsibilities under the Act.
The functions of council chief executives
Under the Act, each territorial authority’s chief executive:
- is the secretary of the DLC - they may delegate this role, and usually do
- may appoint an alcohol licensing commissioner to a DLC, if requested to do so by the territorial authority
- is responsible for appointing licensing inspector(s) and ensuring they can exercise their role independently
- may appoint a chief licensing inspector if there is more than one licensing inspector.
The functions of licensing inspectors
Licensing inspectors have a range of duties, functions and powers under the Act. They must act independently when exercising these. Inspectors are not employees of the DLC and cannot be directed by the DLC on the contents or conclusions of their reports. They must also act independently from their territorial authority.
As part of their role, the inspector:
- must monitor licensees’ compliance with the Act
- must report to the DLC on all applications for a licence, temporary authorities (ARLA Practice Direction One) and all manager’s certificates.
- can issue infringement notices for specified infringement offences
- can access information held by ARLA on current and past licensees and managers when preparing a report on an application. This information helps to determine whether an applicant is a suitable person to hold, or continue to hold, a licence or a manager’s certificate.
The functions of the DLC secretary
The secretary has several important functions in the licensing process, including:
- facilitating and managing the application process
- liaising with the chair of the DLC when public objections or agency oppositions are received
- arranging venues and facilitating the proper hearing notifications and disclosure processes as directed by the chair
- ensuring that objections and matters in opposition are placed before the inspector to comment on in his/her report
- ensuring that all parties receive the appropriate documentation
- issuing licences (following a decision of the DLC)
- liaising, or facilitating liaison, with objectors to help ensure a fair hearing takes place
- undertaking a particular inquiry that may assist the DLC to deal effectively with any matter before it, if directed by the committee by way of a Directions Minute.
Councils can develop local alcohol policies
The Act allows local councils to develop local alcohol policies (LAPs). A LAP is a set of rules made by a local authority in consultation with its community about the sale and supply of alcohol in its geographical area.
Local alcohol policies can cover the following:
- Limiting the location of licensed premises in broad areas or in relation to particular premises or facilities such as near schools, community centres, playgrounds or churches.
- Controlling the density (or total number) of licensed premises by stating whether new licences can be issued in an area.
- Imposing conditions on particular types of licences as well as the conditions already provided for in the Act such as a ‘one-way door’ policy that would allow patrons to leave premises but not enter or re-enter after a certain time.
- Restricting or extending the maximum trading hours set in the new Act, which are:
- 8am to 4am for on-licences (such as pubs, restaurants, or a club licence)
- 7am to 11pm for off-licences (such as bottle stores and supermarkets).
LAPs are optional; local councils don't have to have one. Two or more local councils can develop a joint LAP. Once a LAP is in place, licensing bodies must have regard to it when they make decisions about alcohol licensing applications.
Councils can facilitate community involvement in alcohol licensing and hearings
Changes to the Act were deliberately intended to facilitate community participation in licensing decisions. The Act and its two related amendment Acts contain measures that allow communities to:
- participate in decision making by having local councillors and community members decide most licence and manager’s certificate applications
- object to licence applications on more grounds than under the previous Act
- introduce legally enforceable local alcohol policies.
The Act only requires councils to ensure that licence applications have been correctly notified to the public by applicants. However, councils can do more to facilitate community involvement in the licensing process and so help promote the Act’s purpose and broader philosophy. Councils could consider best practices including:
- making information about the licensing process easy to access, for example, by providing web links to information available on this website such as the guide to objecting to an alcohol licence
- making licence applications easy to access on council websites
- having the council’s community advisory team provide information to public objectors about how hearings work and the importance of ensuring decision makers hear directly from community members.
- having the community advisory team provide feedback or requests from the community about the process to the secretary of the DLC. For example, there could be requests for the hearing to be held outside of working hours so community members can attend or for a particular person to be able to give evidence at a time convenient to them.
Public objectors have a strengthened role under the Act and it is consistent with the Act’s philosophy to take all reasonable steps to facilitate fair and transparent community involvement. No staff should ever discourage (directly or indirectly) a community member from participating when they have the right to do so.
However, in facilitating community input into the licensing process, councils must be careful not to show, or be seen to show, bias towards the community.