We have developed a Public Health Alcohol Licensing process to support Public Health partners to engage effectively and efficiently in licensing application processes and licensing policy consultations. Thereby increasing the involvement of public health in one of the key approaches to reduce alcohol related harm.


Since the 2012 changes to the Licensing Act 2003 Directors of Public Health have been identified as a Responsible Authority. This provides Public Health partners with a responsibility to consider responding to licensing applications made to the local authority.

Prior to this change Public Health did not have a direct responsibility for licensing.  However, international evidence strongly demonstrates the role that effective licensing practice and enforcement has in reducing alcohol related harm (Babor et al 2011). 

Through our engagement with Public Health, police and licensing partners since the changes to the Act we have noted that there is strong interest from all Licensing partners to have Public Health involved, and a clear need for a process for Public Health to be able to be effectively and efficiently involved.

The process

The process has been implemented in 13 London Boroughs, with very positive feedback, and is currently being evaluated by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. We have developed guidance for London and the South West on implementing the process. The process has been widely consulted on with a variety of individuals and organisations in the relevant licensing fields that have provided knowledge and expertise to its development. Local Government Association (LGA) Guidance for Public Health on licensing along with the Licensing Act 2003 and other relevant documentation has been fed into the process.

The process has been developed to provide a helpful starting point; providing a systematic and consistent approach for identifying applications that might warrant particular consideration. The process has been localised to meet the needs of individual local authorities, as we acknowledged that although the issues and harms can be similar each borough is unique and individual in its makeup and dynamics and therefore will have slightly different focuses and issues to address.

The process is broken into five key parts:

  • Criteria: Setting a local set of criteria to sift applications against and allow for quick and effective identification of applications that need further consideration.
  • Scanning tool and database/tool: Supporting the development of a scanning tool that uses relevant data available to the local authority that can then inform representations and provide evidence for representations being made.
  •  Partner engagement framework: Developing a framework approach to engaging key licensing partners (including other Responsible Authorities) and those involved in the licensing process (including applicants and residents).  This provides the opportunity to work with partners and strengthen the process and responses to applications.
  •  Decision matrix: Providing a decision matrix that allows for an easy and robust system to determine when a representation should be made and what action is recommended in the representation. 
  • Guidance on writing applications: Guidance to support the writing of effective representations, including sample text and a check list of information to consider including in each representation.

This provides a robust process that is quick, evidence based and robust, allowing Public Health to have influence in the local licensing environment without requiring significant resource or exposing the local authority to risk.

Additional services

We are also able to offer:

  • Support in responding to licensing applications and making representations to licensing subcommittees; and,

  • Supporting responses to Statement of Licensing Policy consultations or reviews.

We would be keen to meet with you to discuss how we can help you to actively engage with the alcohol licensing process.

To discuss further please contact Dr Matthew Andrews