Controversial plans to scrap the requirement for councils to publish alcohol licence applications in local newspapers have been dropped.
Ministers had mooted the idea of axing the legal requirement for alcohol licence applications to be printed in the local press, sparking a major campaign against the move.
Industry leaders claimed it would not only cost cash-strapped local newspapers up to £8million a year, but also decrease transparency and hamper government efforts to decrease alcohol-fuelled crime.
The government has now decided to abandon the change while, in a separate move, a bid by the Local Government Association to end newspaper publication of statutory public notices was withdrawn.
The decision to scrap the plans in relation to scrap alcohol notices follows a House of Commons debate last month where the plans received cross-party condemnation by MPs, who argued it would not save the taxpayer any money and could lead to people being kept in the dark about applications they may wish to object to.
Newspaper Society spokeswoman Sue Oake welcomed the news.
“We, along with individual local and regional newspapers, produced cogent evidence of the value of public notices in local newspapers, and that their removal would lead to licensing matters being decided without local knowledge and debate,” she said.
“We are delighted that the government has recognised the force of our arguments.”
The government’s report, which draws a lengthy consultation to an end, states: “The government has listened to respondents’ concerns that this might affect access to information about new licensing applications, reducing opportunities for local people to have a say and explain the impact of potential decisions.
“Community engagement in licensing is important to this government. We are not proposing any changes to the requirement for licensing applications to be published in local newspapers.”
Meanwhile, in a debate at the House of Lords yesterday (Wednesday), Baroness Hanham argued against removing public notices from newspapers, claiming they were “vital for local transparency and accountability.”
She cited Newspaper Society research which found that the reach of local newspapers was significantly higher than the reach of council websites, with 67pc of people having read a paper within the last week compared to just nine per cent of people who had viewed the council website.
The study also found 7.1million adults in the UK had never accessed the internet at all, while 34pc had not been on the internet for over a year.
“There are quite a lot of people, therefore, who do not, would not and could not use the internet for these notices,” she said.
“It would be unfair to remove statutory notices in the blanket way that is being proposed while independent newspapers still face unfair competition from local authority newspapers.”
She added that she was “not convinced” there were any good alternatives.