Appointment to licensing committee is daft decision

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Appointing a man who is banned from a town’s pubs to its licensing committee is not quite putting the lunatics in charge of the asylum.

But it’s not far off.

Wayne Ronayne had to stand down as mayor of Gosport after he was handed a six-month ban by the town’s Pub Watch, and the mayoress, his partner Paula Carter, was barred for a year.

He denies he did anything wrong, and has gone on record to give his side of the story, saying that he had only two drinks that night and the reason his group had been asked to leave one establishment was that because someone had fallen asleep. But after CCTV was examined, the ban was upheld despite an appeal.

So does this make him a bad person? No.

Although he resigned as mayor, does this make him a bad councillor? No.

But given the ban, does this make him the right man to sit on a committee that, among other things, has the power to make or break the livelihoods of licensees? No, it certainly does not.

There are practical reasons why this appointment is barmy. Cllr Ronayne may end up having to sit in judgement on the licences of Pub Watch pubs. We are sure he will look upon every application fair-mindedly, but any decision, even if made in the best possible way, will be open to dispute from any landlords who will argue they have been unfairly judged. They could claim a conflict of interest, even if one was not there.

And from a PR point of view, it also leaves the feeling that Gosport council is a law unto itself.

In recent weeks we have seen an unadvertised committee award its chief executive a payrise, and a company announce it had won a council contract before the decision had been made.

That’s not to say that the boss wasn’t worth the money, nor that the firm wasn’t the right one for the job, but there’s a reason why openness and transparency is seen as a useful quality when dealing with public funds.

So, Gosport. There’s planning, housing, scrutiny, environment... why not use Cllr Ronayne’s talents in a field that won’t raise eyebrows up and down the land?