Noise complaints have soared in some areas as residents protest about smokers congregating in beer gardens and outside pubs.

Councils have been given new guidance to deal with the "rising tide" of complaints since the smoking ban was introduced, the Local Government Association said.

Most councils have received complaints about the noise outside licensed premises, particularly in town centres and other built-up areas since July 1 last year.

Brighton and Hove City Council has seen complaints soar from one a year to 60, with most councils reporting complaints in double figures, the LGA said.

Councils have struggled to apply powers designed to deal with noise from barking dogs and blaring stereos to licensed venues like pubs and nightclubs.

But they have received new powers to deal with night-time noise under the recently extended Noise Act 1996.

Licensees can be given an instant penalty of £500 for excessive noise coming from their premises, such as a beer garden or smoking shelter.

They can also be prosecuted and fined up to £20,000 if they fail to comply with a council warning.

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald, chairman of the Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services, said: "Smoke-free pubs, clubs and restaurants have proved a big hit with the public but it has also led to an increase in noise complaints to councils from local residents.

"Councils are committed to putting local people first and will use every tool at their disposal to make sure residents can enjoy peace and quiet in their own homes.

"Noise levels in our towns and cities are rising so it's good news that many councils are already working closely with pubs and clubs in their area so they can address any noise problems before enforcement action is needed."