The public are being left in the dark over applications for licenses for pubs, restaurants and other businesses in the Wokingham area.

When a food, drinks or entertainment business wants to open in an area, they typically have to apply for a licence to operate.

Licenses are needed to sell alcohol at any time of the day, host music events and so much more.

The decision whether to grant a licence falls with local councils, in this case, Wokingham Borough.

Previously, licence applications by businesses were published on a webpage so that members of the public could see them.

But now members of the public are being left in the dark because a webpage showing premises licence applications in Wokingham Borough does not exist.

Licensing in Wokingham Borough used to be run by the Public Protection Partnership (PPP), a shared service between it, Bracknell Forest Council and West Berkshire Council.

But Wokingham Borough left the PPP on April 1, 2022, bringing public protection matters such a licensing and anti-social behaviour ‘back in house’.

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When Wokingham Borough was under the PPP, the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) covered Beyond the Download successfully applying to sell beer and host regular live music, and BB Wines being banned from selling alcohol after underage sales.

The LDRS has asked the council why it no longer publishes a list of current licensing applications, as neighbouring council’s Reading Borough and Bracknell Forest do.

Councillor Beth Rowland (Liberal Democrats, South Lake), the chair of the licensing committee explained the council’s team is working through the finances of bringing public protection back under the council’s control, with a focus on public safety.

Cllr Rowland said: “On taking it back we have had to do a deep dive into the records and finance arrangements – the finance side was time consuming but we as a committee needed to understand the cost of running the department before we could move forward with reviewing the charging for various licences that is required at this time of year.

“You can understand that this has taken a considerable amount of time but was the most important thing to do as it drove other processes.

“Members have queried why there is no published list of applications – it is simply a matter of officer time – so nothing sinister. It will be done.”

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While cllr Rowland could not give a date for when licensing applications will be published online,  a council information officer said that its website is being updated so a public list of licence applications can be provided similar to those published by the PPP and Reading Borough Council.

Furthermore, at their next meeting councillors are expecting to receive an update on the progress of the long ‘to do’ list that officers  have been given to take action on.

The information officer added that in the last three months, one licensing application was received for the Lidl in Shinfield, which was processed without any representations.

An applicant must advertise their application outside of the premises for at least 28 days to make neighbours aware.

Under the Licensing Act 2003, it is not mandatory to post current premises license applications online. However it is a mandatory requirement to advertise premises license applications in local newspapers.