|Description of this AgencyDescription of this Agency|
The Licences Reduction Board, was appointed on 21 May 1907 for a period of ten years under the Licensing Act 1906 (No.2068). It carried on the function previously undertaken by the Licensing Courts (VA 2870) of overseeing the systematic and orderly reduction of hotel licences in Victoria. It is most probable that the Board reported to the Chief Secretary (VRG 26) for the first ten years, however this is not absolutely certain.
The Act also established a special Compensation Fund out of which compensation for licence deprivation and surrender, as well as the salaries and expenses of the three members and staff of the Board were to be paid (ss.42-43). The Fund was built up by annual contributions by licensees and owners in addition to their licence fee which went into the separate Licensing Fund.
The Board was to reduce the number of victuallers licences in Victoria by:
assessing the maximum compensation allowable for loss of licence to owner and licensee
determining which premises in each district should be closed
determining the actual compensation payable to the owner and licensee.
In accordance with the objectives of the Act, when reducing licences in a district due regard had to be paid to the convenience of the public and the requirements of the several localities in the district .The Board was required to give priority to closing those hotels whose licensees had been convicted of breaches of the licensing legislation in the three years prior to the Act (s.44).
The Board could only reduce as many licences as could be compensated for by the funds available for that year (s.43) and no reductions were to be made in a district where the number of licences was below the statutory limit (s.49).
The Board was empowered by the Act to make a general survey of all hotels licensed before 1886 in Victoria and to determine the maximum compensation payable in the event of the licence being deprived (s.45). Records relating to this survey can be found in VPRS 7722/P1 Maximum Valuation Files.
Hearings were held within each licensing district to determine which hotels were to be deprived , after which sittings were held to determine compensation. Records relating to this process can be found in VPRS 7723/P1 Hotel Licence Deprivation and Surrender Files and VPRS 7605/P1 and P2 Minute Books of the Licences Reduction Board.
In these proceedings the Board had the powers of a court; it could summon witnesses, demand documents and hear evidence under oath. Failure to comply could incur prosecution before a Court of Petty Sessions (s.47). However there was no right of appeal, the determinations of the Board being final and conclusive (s.46).
Between 1907 and 1916 the Board closed 1054 hotels and a total of 540,851 pounds sterling was paid in compensation. At the termination of their period of office the Legislature re-appointed the members of the Board with increased jurisdiction.
Local Option Polls
The 1906 Act provided that after a ten year (reduction) period there should be triennial local option polls held in every district to determine whether further reductions should be effected. The first of these was due in 1917 but the 1916 Act postponed these polls until 1920 and provided that the Board should continue its work. The 1922 Act continued the polls but extended the interval to every 8 years. Polls were held in 1920, 1930, and 1938 before the provision was repealed in 1946. Two districts, Boroondara and Nunawading voted to have no hotels in the 1920 poll.
Centralised administration proved successful and in 1916 the Licensing Act conferred upon the members of the Board the duty of exercising throughout Victoria the jurisdiction of licensing magistrates, previously a function of the Licensing Courts (VA 2870), now constituted as the Licensing Court of Victoria (2955) (s.35).
From this time on the Board was constituted by three licensing magistrates, and the Secretary of the Board and all its employees were deemed to have been appointed the Registrar and officers of the Court under the Public Service Act (s.38-39). The special Compensation Fund was abolished and all compensation was paid out of the general Licensing Fund (s.44).
The Board continued in existence until the establishment of the Liquor Control Commission (VA 1110) in 1968. However its activities steadily decreased with changing attitudes to the sale and consumption of liquor in the community. In 1954 the Licensing Court of Victoria passed its functions to the Victorian Licensing Court (VA 2905), whose members would sit as the Licences Reduction Board for the fixing of compensation for cancelled licences. This and the acceptance of licence surrenders were the Board's only functions in the later years.
Location of Records
Some related records are held by the Public Record Office. See also entries in the Summary Guide under VRG 4 Courts, VA 2870 Licensing Courts and VA 2905 Victorian Licensing Court, and the geographical groupings of Courts in the List of Holdings 2nd edition 1985, sections 2.8.0-2.256.0.