Alcohol licensing: a guide for public health teams

Public health teams make sure that licensing policy and applications consider the health and wellbeing of local communities.

This guidance, formally known as the Analytical Support Package (ASP), brings together nationally available data and materials with local authority information to support local authorities in accessing and using a range of databases and tools. Local teams are able to input their own data and create interactive maps and reports to help them in their existing role as a responsible authority.

Licensing and public health

Under the Licensing Act 2003, a number of public bodies known as responsible authorities must be fully notified of applications and can contribute to decisions made by the local licensing authority, usually the local council.

Responsible authorities and their duties

PHE and the Local Government Association (LGA) have produced guidance on the Public health and the Licensing Act 2003.

Since 2013 directors of public health have been included as responsible authorities under the Act. The Home Office has published guidance on section 182 of the Licensing Act outlining the role of responsible authorities.

Public health teams may have access to information that is unavailable to other responsible authorities, which can help the licensing authority make decisions that benefit and protect the health and wellbeing of local communities.

As a responsible authority public health teams can:

  • provide information on the likely effects of the grant or variation of a premises licence or club premises certificate
  • support or apply a review of a premises licence or club premises certificate where problems associated with one or more of the licensing objectives arise
  • contribute to the development and review of the statement of licensing policy and have a key role in identifying and interpreting health data and evidence

Licensing policy

Licensing policies must be reviewed every 5 years, or more frequently at the instigation of the licensing authority.

As a responsible authority public health teams can:

  • find out from the licensing authority when the Statement of Licensing Policy (SLP) will be reviewed and what the review process will be
  • conduct a health-impact assessment of alcohol in the local area or assess any existing assessment
  • seek the views of the local community and wider public health community
  • investigate the health data for the area
  • work with the local health and wellbeing board during consultation to identify issues that would benefit from the support of licensing
  • refer to the SLP in alcohol harm-reduction strategies and other key local public health documents

Reviewing a licensing policy: think local, act local

Embedding public health in Coventry’s Licensing Policy statement

Newcastle’s Statement of Licensing Policy Review: a collaborative approach

Reducing alcohol-related health harms in Leeds

Cumulative impact policies

Cumulative impact policies (CIPs) were introduced as a tool for licensing authorities to limit the growth of licensed premises in a problem area.

As a responsible authority public health teams can:

  • provide evidence that can inform a review of CIPs
  • canvass local opinion and gather qualitative data
  • collate local evidence through local consultations
  • consider and conduct, if relevant, specific studies

Read our case study on public health input to the Liverpool Kensington and Fairfield licence application process.

Applications for licences

Public health teams will have different priorities depending on the situation in their local areas. These priorities will mean that not every application for a licence or change of licence will need a response from a public health team. It will depend on the local impact and should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. For example, a new application for a 24 hour vertical drinking establishment could have a major impact, while a minor variation an existing licence for a local restaurant may have minimal impact.

As a responsible authority public health teams can:

  • identify what issues or potential harms might be linked to the different types of applications
  • decide which types of application are priorities for public health

You can find out how case law can support public health teams when preparing a representation.

Public Health and Licensing Guidance: A simple guide for responding to applications as a responsible authority

Using health data to inform alcohol licensing decisions in Solihull

Data and information tools

Public health teams will need to understand what health information is available and how this information can be used and shared with other responsible authorities.

When reviewing what information is available, consider:

  • what types of data and evidence are available that can be linked to specific premises or the general area and that can be used as part of a representation – for example, A&E assault data
  • what information can be used to input into the SLP or development of a cumulative impact zone or other special policies
  • what information can be used to provide an overview of the local area’s health, social care needs and levels of deprivation to provide a context to licensing issues
  • who will benefit from having access to this information
  • whether it is appropriate to share that information
  • what additional information is needed and how it can be collected

Any information collected will still need to explain the local context, to identify the local circumstances and describe the local area.

There are a number of data resources available to help public health teams and licensing colleagues in their role as responsible authorities:

Alcohol harms and licensing: available data

Alcohol licensing: understanding and applying public health data

Alcohol licensing: information databases

Primary research to support the licensing process

In addition to health data, such as hospital admissions and A&E attendances, local public health teams may also want to carry out their own primary research to help provide further evidence of alcohol related harm and support responsible authorities in the licensing process.

This is particularly important where there is insufficient public health related information, or such information is not readily available, but the team believes there is a local public health impact.

The commissioning of a local survey, or audit, can help to provide information or data related to alcohol, including drinking behaviours, consumption levels and purchasing habits. Commissioning local primary research may also allow local areas to focus on particular groups to gain further insights, for example, a specific location, those in treatment or street drinkers.

There are some potential survey topics that could be considered when planning to carry out primary research to support the licensing process.

Targeted groups could be surveyed to provide local data on:

  • what specific alcohol products are being consumed
  • how much alcohol is being consumed
  • which premises are products being purchased from

This could be combined with a potential audit of licensed premises which may cover:

  • the cost of the alcohol being purchased
  • whether alcohol can be purchased on credit
  • availability of strong beer, lager or cider
  • the retail capacity of outlets, for example comparing small retailers to large supermarkets

Read our case study on evaluating public health evidence in Medway.

Further information

Visit the Knowledge hub forum for additional case studies and to share learning around local attempts to use data better in influencing licensing decisions.

Published 8 March 2017
Last updated 7 August 2018 + show all updates
  1. Added a link to Reviewing a licensing policy: think local, act local.
  2. Added link to case study on 'Evaluating public health evidence in Medway'.
  3. Added link to guidance about using case law.
  4. First published.