A COUNCILLOR has resigned from a licensing committee in protest because he feels it has become politicised.

Independent councillor John Pickersgill, who represents the Cornsay ward on Derwentside District Council, has quit the influential new alcohol and entertainment licensing committee.

The 15-member committee is part of a system, under which local authorities will make decisions about renewing and extending liquor licenses for pubs and clubs instead of local magistrates. It will also decide whether public venues can hold entertainment nights.

The committee was formed in November last year and members have undergone training.

Sub-committees of three, chaired by the Labour chairman or vice-chairman of the alcohol and entertainment licensing committee, will meet to consider applications.

But Coun Pickersgill has quit his post because he feels other committee members should be able to chair a sub-committee.

He said: "They are supposed to be seen to be non-political but because the Labour Party will be in control of Derwentside it puts it back in the political sphere.

"I would not have a problem if it was chosen at random, but they are not.

"The Government at the moment are pushing for 24-hour opening and the Labour Group are going to retain control of this committee."

Council leader Alex Watson said Coun Harry Gilford and Coun Gordon Coulson were chosen as the chairman and vice-chairman because of their experience.

He said they held the same position on the former licensing committee and had been approved by the full council - not just the Labour group.

Coun Watson said: "I do not know why he has decided to take this route.

"The chairman and vice-chairman are very important positions and they are given a special responsibility allowance because of that.

"It is important they get they decision right first time otherwise they could be surcharged.

"It does not mean there will be a Labour majority. You could have a committee with one Labour and two Independents on it but at the end of the day it will be up to three people to make a decision.

"We have not done anything here that will not stand up to scrutiny."