Let me say, I do not blame the officers at the local Councils. People like Miles Bebbington at South Cambs have been nothing but helpful in trying to sort out the labyrinth of problems the new legislation has turned up, but the very red tape and stupidity of the forms has had to be seen to be believed. Mark Donachy at The Red Lion Histon estimates a £5,000 bill just to carry on his trade as usual, thanks to solicitors and the like having to be involved. Pure madness and it gets worse.

There have been many ridiculous challenges to pubs wanting to extend their hours, often driven by jealousy, and the Councils sitting in judgement have made ridiculous directions. The Live & Let Live in Mawson Road Cambridge had asked for a very modest extension to their hours only to have it turned down except for Friday and Saturday, yet The Six Bells in Covent Garden, not a poor 9 iron shot away, have been granted their wishes. It has to be said, if the authorities had asked the Police I am sure they would have vouched for the fact that The Live is a well run pub with no history of any trouble or noise under the present stewardship.

I know of another free house, in South Cambs, where a neighbour anonymously circulated a letter to residents nearby appealing to them to object in the strongest fashion to the slight extension of hours; it is also alleged that a local councillor ignited the debate further by claiming in a nearby pub that the application from the free house had been for 24 hour opening! Nothing could have been further from the truth. Thankfully those in judgement made the correct decision and the pub will basically open as they had planned.

All this could have been avoided if we had stuck with the tried and tested situation of the Police, Magistrates and Fire Services collaborating to sort out the wrinkles. To give an authority without any experience these powers has to be considered lunacy at the very least! I have over the years applied for many licenses for various events and have always been dealt with fairly, honestly and politely. I will miss my trip to the Magistrates on the odd occasion to answer why a particular license has been sought. The only saving grace, as I see it, is that for an occasional license (now called a TEN) the Police and Fire Service will be the only ones allowed to object. The councils will be doing the job they were elected to do, represent, as servants, the rate payer and I am sure I am not the only one who would not trust a politician as far as I could throw them, and rejoice in the fact that they will not be open to bribes and the like.

I also find it astonishing that the cost of all licenses has increased. Our license for the Shelford Feast has gone up from £10 to an estimated £100! This is a charitable event so the people who will suffer are those that we are trying to help - bureaucracy gone mad! The by-product has been the ludicrous situation where you have to be in a pub half an hour before time. Now the situation in the beer quarter of Cambridge is that the Blue shuts at 11 most nights, but if you want to carry on, where do you go? Who knows? And make sure you're there in good time!

Meanwhile at South Cambs poor old Miles has to deal with the added problem of do-gooders phoning and pestering him as to why pubs are open when they have not been. The answer usually is that the pub concerned has wisely asked for possible hour increases and had not invoked them but waited to see what the regulars wanted and then got on with it. Mr Brown will report again on this thorny old subject later on in the year!

Jerry Brown