The main dish of the government’s current consultation on alcohol licensing in England and Wales is of course the proposal to establish a minimum price of 45p per unit for alcohol sold in supermarkets and off-licences. You may have your views about this proposal – I know I have mine (cough: illiberal and inequitable). However, the attention given to this particular proposal has overshadowed some of the side dishes served up alongside it in the consultation document, not least a proposal to review the provision of temporary event notices (TENs) to, for example, community groups.
Those of us who have organised Liberal Democrat fundraising suppers, pizza and politics evenings and AGM refreshments – and let’s face it, which of us hasn’t? – know how restrictive the current regulations are. Without a licence, which can cost a hefty proportion of the proceeds from a small-scale event organised by a small local party, it is an offence to sell participants a bottle or a glass of wine; or even to include a glass of wine as part of the price of a supper ticket. And that’s the case not just for Lib Dem events, but for many small-scale events run by community groups and small organisations year in, year out, up and down the country.
The proposal in the consultation is simply to create a simpler notification process for community groups to inform the local authority about planned events (up to a maximum number per annum) in order to reduce the bureaucracy surrounding the issuing of TENs – but of course there’s no reason to be restricted by the specific questions asked if you have other points to make or if you feel the current arrangements could be freed up in other ways without undue harm.
The consultation, which also has an option to answer online, closes on Wednesday 6 February. It would be a shame if the debate about minimum alcohol pricing meant that this chance to review the licensing of small community events was overlooked.
* Lorna Dupré is a party member in Cambridgeshire, where she works for South East Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats and the East of England regional party. She writes here in a personal capacity.