Business & Licensing

Licensing essentially exists to regulate business activity in order to protect people.  From small independent businesses such as taxi drivers and home boarding establishments to large multi-national businesses such as those affected by primary authority partnerships, there is a golden thread of licensing regulation intertwined in all of it.  In fact, there are very few business sectors where licensing regulation is not a relevant factor.

It is therefore not surprising that at the highest level of Government there is a great importance placed on proportionate regulation on businesses – including that of licensing regulation – to ensure that it is not stifling growth and industry.

In 2010 the Government of the day set about changing the regulatory landscape of the country.  In that year, the Conservative’s deregulation agenda – that is still relevant to date – entitled “Regulation in the Post-Bureaucratic Age: How to get Rid of Red Tape and Reform Quangos” said: "We believe that the UK has become simultaneously and dangerously under-regulated in some areas (particularly systemic risks in the banking sector) but chronically and severely over-regulated elsewhere. It's clear that some regulation is both necessary and desirable in a modern, liberal democracy - everyone expects the food we eat to be safe, for example - but once we are properly protected from unscrupulous people and hidden dangers, that is where it should stop. Everything else should, wherever possible, be a question of individual choice rather than collective control."

The then incoming Conservative government continued by saying that it would "... sweep away Labour's ineffective system of bureaucracy and replace it with a post-bureaucratic approach to regulation that makes use of new technologies and insights from social psychology and behavioural economics to achieve our policy goals in a less burdensome and intrusive way". This "... will require a fundamental culture shift amongst policy makers in Whitehall and beyond, which will only be made possible through significant structural reforms".

The consequence of this policy was a raft of regulatory changes that also included relaxing licensing rules on businesses such as:

  • Live Music Act and other regulated entertainment deregulation
  • Deregulation Act
  • The proposed Tourism Strategy setting out further taxi & PH licensing relaxation

Notwithstanding this, licensing regulation continues to play an important role in everyday life.  The importance of licensing’s role in protecting people has recently been highlighted in a number of high profile cases where failures to properly regulate business activity caused, in some cases significant harm, to people.  The most prominent of these included a spate of child sexual-exploitation issues associated with poor regulation of the taxi and private hire trade but there are other examples of people and communities suffering harm from alcohol related ASB or animal welfare issues to mention only a few.

Whist this article has mostly focussed on the role of licensing in regulating business, it is also important to recognise the role partnership plays in licensing and business because when both parties work well together it is mutually beneficial.  Good partnership between licensing regulators and business allows business to get on with what they do without explicit regulatory interference whilst on the other side reducing demand on licensing officers.

National Licensing Week in an opportunity to celebrate what is positive about regulation and the relationship between licensing and business.  There are partners from both sides of the fence getting involved with the week and activities that encourage a mutual understanding of each other’s worlds through job shares and joint working.