The LGA has called for councils to be given tougher licensing powers to close down pubs and other licensed premises that are not following COVID-19 safety guidelines.
It wants to see the introduction of a temporary public health or COVID-19 objective in the Licensing Act 2003 to enable councils to take action where premises are not protecting the public during the pandemic, such as not collecting people’s contact details or maintaining social distancing.
Licensing laws currently do not allow councils to take action on public health grounds, such as where COVID-19 guidelines are not being followed. They would need to use general health and safety legislation, which is less specific and makes it harder to intervene.
The LGA is also calling for COVID-19 safety guidance to be made mandatory and legally enforceable through the Licensing Act. Councils have recently been given powers to close premises, but these can only be used where there is already a serious and imminent risk to public health. The LGA says Licensing Act sanctions – such as requiring a business to apply new conditions to operate safely – would be better suited to preventing the risk of infection spreading than the tools available under health and safety laws.
Cllr Nesil Caliskan, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Some councils are beginning to see isolated cases where the guidelines are not being followed and they are limited in what they can do to stop it.
“It needs to be mandatory for premises to follow this government safety guidance, and councils need the right powers to intervene and take action if necessary.”