WOKING Borough Council is to get tough on shops that sell alcohol to underage drinkers following a series of test purchases by Surrey Police earlier in the summer, which revealed that three outlets failed to ask for identification from teenager shoppers.
The operation by Surrey Police in July found that three stores – Tesco Express on Guildford Road, Sanway Stores in Byfleet, and Harry’s in Walton Road – had served alcohol to teenagers under the legal drinking age. All three shops were hit with a £90 penalty fine.
Horsell East & Woodham Conservative Councillor Michael Smith, said: “We’ve been informed that two test purchase schemes have been implemented. In both – one involving five premises and one involving six – only two actually passed the test. All the others sold to underage people.
“Where does this committee get involved to insist on licensees who are in breach of this rule coming before us to explain what is going wrong?”
His comments were echoed by the Chairman of the Licensing Committee and Conservative Cllr for Mount Hermon East, Carl Thomson, who said: “We need to look at what power we have to take a more aggressive approach, particularly if we think the problem might be more widespread, but we may not be getting the complete picture because inspections are being telegraphed in advance.”
Councillors agreed to write to Surrey Police and ask them to increase the number of unannounced inspections and test purchases at shops selling alcohol in the borough.
Cllr Thomson said: “In light of the difficulties we’ve had with particular venues, we as a council are asking the Trading Standards and the police to step up the frequency of these inspections.”
The council has also adopted an updated licensing policy, which will run for a five-year term before being reviewed again in 2021.
Among the measures introduced under the new policy are a commitment to support the National Proof of Age Standards scheme, introduced by the British Retail Consortium.
The initiative encourages the use of reliable proof of age measures, such as requiring potentially underage customers to present their holographic ID cards.