Home > Exploring the implementation of public involvement in local alcohol availability policy: the case of alcohol licensing decision-making in England.

David, Genevieve and Cooper, Richard and Dixon, Simon and Holmes, John (2021) Exploring the implementation of public involvement in local alcohol availability policy: the case of alcohol licensing decision-making in England. Addiction, Early online, . doi: 10.1111/add.15699.

External website: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/a...

BACKGROUND AND AIMS: In 2003, the UK government passed the Licensing Act for England and Wales. The Act provides a framework for regulating alcohol sale, including four licensing objectives with local governments having devolved responsibility for granting licences to sell alcohol. Members of the public can make representations of oppositions to licence applications. Applying the theories of the policy process, we explored the practices employed by licensing authorities when deciding on alcohol licences in situations of conflict between licence applicants and members of the public.

DESIGN: Qualitative study comprising a framework analysis of in-depth semi-structured interviews and application of the theories of institutionalism, the advocacy coalition framework and role of ideas.

PARTICIPANTS: Purposive sample of 15 licensing officers, licensing subcommittee chairs, public health leads for licensing and police licensing officers in Eleven local authorities in five regions in England in 2019..

MEASUREMENTS: The interview schedule included mechanisms of public involvement in licensing, parties involved, the subject of conflicts and how licensing authorities made decisions.

FINDINGS: When members of the public opposed licence applications, licensing authorities employed three key decision-making practices: procedural fairness, partnership working and framing. The normativity of procedural fairness was an important institutional structure within which conflicts were resolved. Licensing authorities also worked in partnership with the involved parties, who often appeared as advocacy coalitions that shared beliefs and advanced specific issues to determine mutually acceptable solutions. At times, licensing authorities framed issues through ideational processes to solve problems.

CONCLUSION: Licensing decision-making under the United Kingdom's Licensing Act for England and Wales appear in many cases to focus on resolution of conflicts between licence applicants and members of the public rather than on promotion of licensing objectives. This raises uncertainty regarding the impact of public involvement on reducing alcohol availability, but ultimately represents a pragmatic process that seeks to restore balance in powers, improve transparency in decision-making and empower communities.


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