Mudcat Café message #539671 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #38260   Message #539671
Posted By: The Shambles
01-Sep-01 - 12:23 PM
Thread Name: Write an Email for Shambles? Part 2
Subject: RE: Write an Email for Shambles? Part 2
The Chief Ececutive's position.

31 August 2001 Dear Mr Gall

Thank you for coming to see Sue Allen and myself last week. I am sure it is helpful for all of us to be able to put names and faces together. I think we can probably agree that our exchange of views demonstrated that nobody at the council is trying to be unreasonable. I'm also sure we can agree that the meeting reinforced my view that there is scope to pool our efforts to try to influence changes in the law.

It seems to me that at the heart of you line of argument and comments, is that the Council has some discretion; in turn, exercising that discretion requires a policy and hence, it is the policy pursued by the Council you wish to see altered. As you know the Council's view has always been that it is a matter of law, not policy as such.

We explored this matter in some depth and I think the key issues surround what is entertainment, and whether the kind of events/activities hosted by the Cove House Inn, are covered by the Local Government Miscellaneous Provisions Act of 1982. You referred to Lord Bassam's comments, and in particular, to the phrase "depending on the circumstances", and you go on to suggest this is a clear indication that it is solely up to the Council as to whether a Public Entertainment Licence (PEL) is necessary for the Cove House Inn.

As promised, I have discussed the matter further with our legal team. We all remain of the view that Lord Bassam's comments do not increase the discretion available beyond that which is already allowed for in the Council's approach. We talked at our meeting about the extremes of entertainment. At one extreme might be the one-off, unorganised "sing-song". At the other extreme, a professional, regular act. We believe the "depending on circumstances" comment of Lord Bassam recognises that the extreme of the one-off, unarranged, sing-song is such that:-

it is doubtful that those taking part are true performers, it might not qualify as entertainment, and in any event, it is so minor an activity as to render the requirement of a PEL as unreasonable.

Progressing beyond this extreme illustration, however, it is clear that the requirement for a PEL becomes more obvious. The circumstances at the Cove House Inn – whereby, very regularly (i.e. almost every week) entertainment takes place; along with support evidence of a degree of declaration of an intent for the entertainment to take place -–are very different to the minimalistic extreme of one-off, informal sing-songs. It remains the Council's view that the discretion available (i.e. interpretation of the "depending on circumstances") falls a long way short of covering the events that occur at the Cove House Inn. Hence, it is a matter of law, not policy.

We talked about the general purpose of PELs. In essence, there are two main reasons for the Act requiring PELs – to ensure public safety and protection of neighbours from intrusive noise. I should make it clear that there have never been any allegations, that we know of, that the Thursday sessions that you take part in threaten public safety, or produce obtrusive noise to neighbours. But the test under the Act - as to whether a licence is needed or not – is not whether safety or noise is an issue. The test is simply – does entertainment take place, and if so, are there exemptions, e.g. 2 or less people performing, is in support of a religious gathering, etc. We did of course discuss the definition of entertainment (and indeed, performers) but in reality, I think you would probably agree that entertainment is taking place at the Cove House Inn. It remains, therefore, our view that the Cove House Inn requires a PEL and the circumstances around the entertainment are so far removed from the informal unplanned, very occasional events, at the end of the entertainment spectrum, that we have no discretion in the matter.

I suspect that what I have written above will not come as a major surprise to you but I do hope you can acknowledge a clear justification for the Council's approach, even if you continue to disagree with it. However, I know how passionately you feel about matters and I think we would both be better served by turning our attention to our attention to the effect of the legislation, particularly bearing in mind that there does seem to be a will for Parliament to consider new legislation. This is why I made the comment in the opening paragraph that by pooling our efforts, we can try to influence changes to the law.

For example, you asserted that there are circumstances whereby landlords, when advised of the need for a PEL, have insisted that the entertainment cease. Are you able to provide real and tangible examples of landlords who have curtailed activities because of the need for a PEL? If so, this becomes real evidence that can be weighed against the positive aspects of the PEL requirements (i.e. safety/noise regulation, paid for by those hosting the entertainment). In a similar vein, you will know that at the Social and Community Meeting in June, the Council agreed to obtain views from musicians on prospective alterations to the legislation. If you, or any of the people you have contact with, are able to make comments about proposals for reforming legislation, we would be pleased to hear them.

Once we have collected all of the views, I would anticipate that we will be able to put forward an argument to the appropriate Government department, which will recognise that there is scope for improvement within the PEL system, to everyone's advantage. Perhaps you will let me know if you can help in this.

Yours sincerely

Tom Grainger Chief Executive