Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    The new Licensing Act is threatening the viability of our local village halls says Peter Lilley, after carrying out a survey of village halls in the villages around Hitchin and Harpenden. They are concerned about the cost, paperwork, bureaucracy and onerous new responsibilities that the Act places on them.

    Peter Lilley says: “Because of fears expressed by some village hall committees I have carried out a survey of most of the village halls in my constituency about the impact the Licensing Act is having on them. Their responses have made me even more concerned. Comments in letters I have received from village hall committees range from “the thought of filling the part of the form relating to alcohol was too horrendous??; through “the cost of approx ?200 each year ? may not seem expensive, but would have an impact on the hall?s finances??; to “We feel the legislation has completely disregarded the needs of rural communities such as ours who rely on voluntary help and income from the charges to maintain the Village Hall which is at the heart of the community? and “? we have had to apply not only to convert our existing Public Entertainment Licence but also to vary it. This has meant that I have had to copy our application (1 for each room) not only to NHDC and the police but also to 6 other agencies. A total of 424 pieces of paper!?

    “It is a paradox that the Act has simultaneously opened the prospect of 24 hour drinking in commercial premises, and undermined harmless social events in our local village halls. I am sure this was not what the government intended. But introducing ill-thought out legislation like this was bound to have perverse effects.

    “I have taken up these concerns with the Secretary of State from Culture, Media and Sport. She says that she has now invited Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) to join a ministerial group to monitor the implementation of this Act and its effect. I hope that Ministers will be open minded enough to consider amending the legislation to make it simpler and less costly for village halls to comply.?