THERE were cheers all round among rural publicans last night when it was revealed that all of them have beaten a deadline to get their new licences in order.

Nationally, only 70 per cent of landlords have completed the paperwork, but those in the Teesdale area, around Barnard Castle, have notched up a 100 per cent record.

Praise was handed out to Gary Keay, licensing officer for Teesdale District Council, who has worked hard to ensure that nearly 180 licences have been transferred to a new system before the cut-off date of November 24.

The total is mainly made up of pubs, clubs and hotels, but also includes village halls and school halls, which can serve drinks at functions.

Councillor Dreda Forster, chairwoman of the council's licensing committee, and a former landlady of the Red Lion, in Cotherstone, said: "I am absolutely delighted that we have scored such a success.

"A lot of credit must go to Gary Keay.

"He spent many hours urging people to get their applications in on time, and then he ensured that any problems which cropped up were sorted out quickly."

Coun Foster, who was in the licensed trade for 36 years, said: "I know how vital it is to have licences handled correctly, and am proud that it has been done so well in our area."

Mr Keay said: "We worked hard on this.

"It seemed very complicated at first, but it turned out well in the end."

The new licensing law will come into force on November 24.

All licensed premises must have the documents in place before then or they cannot serve alcohol.