Anne Main (St Albans, Conservative)
No, I want to make some progress.
I have seen the police operating at first hand, and I know that they are reluctant to arrest a shambling drunk if he is not causing too much trouble. The figure of 848 arrests is therefore the tip of the iceberg. As our inspector pointed out, our cells and accident and emergency units would be overflowing if everybody who was drunk was arrested or sent for treatment. Individual revellers are often noisy, but do not commit an arrestable offence. So nothing much can be done as they clatter down the streets, keeping the people of St. Albans awake.
"Cumulative impact" is a vital factor in a city such as St. Albans, but the local council's licensing policy is far from robust, and "cumulative impact" is not accepted when applications are being considered. Each application has to be judged on its own merits. Many city centre residents have joined the Save Our Sleep campaign in an attempt to lobby the council. They are worried about the problems that the evening economy is bringing. They put up a spirited, well informed argument at the meetings, and they are regularly supported by our local police, who—such is their concern—have taken it upon themselves to alert residents to applications by giving out leaflets to affected homes. But this is all time-consuming for the residents, the police and, most importantly, the council, which has had to put masses of extra resources into dealing with these issues.
At present, we have six committees dealing with licensing. They have granted 400 licences, and still the deluge continues. Before the Act, the former, Labour, Member for St. Albans reckoned that only about 1 per cent. of licensees would apply for longer hours, but the figure is 40 per cent. Just as importantly, many of the premises offer music and entertainment. Some residents who have bought flats above small shops now find themselves above café bars that have turned themselves into late-night music venues.