Including health in local alcohol license decisions is not just about a dedicated Health Associated Licensing Objective (HALO): A Public Health Perspective – beyond the HALO effect!

For the attention of: City licensing and alcohol officers and committee members

The problem: Local Public Health teams in England are now able to table objections to the granting of new licence applications for the sale of alcohol. For an objection to be valid however, it must be based on one or more licensing objectives which in England does not include health. This can effectively render any health-related evidence to be inadmissible and bring into question the legitimacy of public health input.

What we did and why: We examined the prospects for incorporating health related evidence into the alcohol license decision making process in a purposive sample of seven English local authorities. We wanted to establish if firstly it might be feasible to include health information under the existing licensing objectives or if there was a case that could be made for a separate new fifth objective around health and the advantages that might bring.

What our study adds: Constraints in using health information in alcohol licence decision-making are not restricted to the presence or absence of a dedicated Health as an Alcohol Licensing Objective (HALO) policy.

While such an policy might enhance the legitimacy of public health input, improved access to localised health information, stronger collaborative working with other stakeholders and training in how to contextualise evidence for local council committees will all be critical to improving local alcohol harm reduction through licensing.

Implications for city policy and practice: The capacity to impose restraints on the availability of alcoholic beverages represents a key strategy in reducing alcohol harms and improving city well-being. We would stress that raising awareness of the wider health harms of alcohol in addition to its acute impacts such as crime and disorder, can improve the prospects for controlling availability. Though, the evidence needs to be contextualised and accessible for local licensing committees.

For further information: 

Findings from the pilot of the analytical support package for alcohol licensing; Executive summary

Alcohol licensing in England and Wales: is it fit for purpose? AHA_Licensing_leaflet v5

Full research article:  Assessing the feasibility of using place-based health information in alcohol licensing: case studies from seven local authorities in England by John D Mooney, Zeibeda Sattar, Frank deVocht & Jonathan Ling.