Scotland: New NHS post to help communities in fight against liquor licenses
By Gerry Braiden, Senior reporter, May 18, 2015
SCOTLAND’S largest health board is to create a second post in less than a year dedicated to increasing the number of objections to alcohol licenses and curtail the sale of drink.
In the latest move in its campaign against the alcohol industry, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) is to fund an officer whose sole remit is to assist community groups in lodging appeals against the sale of liquor in their neighborhoods.
The successful candidate for the new role, which comes with a salary of up to £28,000, will give advice to community councils and groups such as tenants and residents’ associations on how to legally frame objections to license applications.
Glasgow has 1,700 licensed premises, with an estimated 13,500 problem alcohol users and 300 drink-related deaths annually.
NHS GGC said the applicant, who will be appointed next month, would “create and provide the information, training and support needed to allow communities to have a voice within the statutory processes that regulate the sale of alcohol within Glasgow city”.
It comes less than a year after the board appointed a £40,000-a-year officer to bring specific health concerns to licensing boards when applications are made, with a view to limiting the sale of alcohol.
The job, the first of its type in Scotland, aimed to bring forensic and legal rigor to licensing objections from the NHS, which continues to have very mixed results in its attempts to force itself on the agenda.
An update report on how the post has performed has found it has made just five letters of objection and one letter of representation to Glasgow’s licensing board to date.
But it has successfully called for a formal champion for those in various communities looking to restrict alcohol sales in their areas.
Sarah Graham, NHS GGC’s lead on alcohol licensing, said: “An emerging theme from the Alcohol Licensing Lead role is that of a need for more knowledge and understanding of licensing within communities, community councils as well as a wider range of agencies, to enable them to participate more effectively and regularly in the process.
“A bid was placed with the Alcohol and Drug Partnership for funding for a post to develop the community response to licensing within Glasgow city.
“The post is currently being advertised with an interview date scheduled in early June. This post will provide information, guidance and support to develop the community response to licensing.”
The post comes on the back of publication of a new report calling for an overall of licensing administration to make it more public-friendly.
The paper, by the Glasgow Centre for Population Health and Alcohol Focus Scotland, said that although the licensing system has ways for communities to influence the amount of alcohol available in their area, in practice, it was often difficult to do this. It said that as a result, communities were not as involved as they could be if the processes were simpler.
It said community groups and individuals did not have the same resources as organizations including the licensee, health boards or the police, to engage with the licensing process and that “information needs to be tailored to community groups if they are to be involved in a meaningful way”.
It called for community representatives to be given training to be able to participate in the city’s licensing forum, ‘planning gains’ where licensed premises would have to “deliver benefits to the community to compensate for the harm associated with the extra local availability of alcohol” and a reduction in the formality of licensing board meetings.
But the report has been criticized for the practical hurdles it would create, failure to engage with the trade and repeated misspelling of ‘license’.