Politicians have played down fears that Watford town centre’s nightlife is getting out of control due to the number of licensed premises.

During a licensing committee meeting on Monday, councillors defended the town’s night time economy, saying they had to find a balance to keep residents safe while also supporting the pubs, bars and clubs during the recession.

Councillor Jan Brown, who chaired the meeting, said: “We are all aware that it is a very delicate balancing act in the town centre. The town and the people in it do want a good night out and the town needs the money the clubs and pubs bring in.”

Liberal Democrat councillor for the Park ward George Derbyshire added: “A lot of people work in the night time economy as well as the people who enjoy and take advantage of it.”

The debate comes after a month after a Watford police sergeant wrote to councillors in charge of licensing saying his officers were struggling to cope with town centre disorder.

Police Sergeant Conrad White said the number of late night alcohol and food licences operating in central Watford at night meant violence and anti-social behaviour were “inevitable” on busy nights.

He told councillors the situation was getting “out of control” and that it had reached the point where troublemakers knew they could fight without fear of arrest as there were not enough officers to take people into custody.

On a list of alcohol-related crimes in violent crimes in Eastern England, Watford was placed second highest in Hertfordshire below Stevenage.

Sergeant White said: “I am making this statement as I am concerned the situation in Watford is getting out of control.

“This is, in my opinion, because the licensing hours of both the licensed bars, clubs and food outlets, as well as the very limited resource the police have available to use at peak hours, are combining to make anti-social behaviour and drink-related violence inevitable given the current propensity of revellers to binge drink.”

Following the statement, police chiefs in Watford drafted more officers into the town centre for the busy Christmas period.

However Councillor Brown believes it is unfair to blame new licences for the increase in trouble, as most of the venues have had the same opening hours for years.

After the meeting, the Liberal Democrat politician commented: “These pubs and clubs do have these hours which were gained, for the most part, several years ago when the licensing act was new.”