Late Night Levy a slap in the face for Struggling Small Businesses
A ‘late night levy’ on businesses catering to the night-time economy will be a “massive slap in the face” for struggling small firms, the Forum of Private Business (FPB) has warned.
The levy, which will enable local authorities to charge licensed businesses between £299 and £4,440 to pay for policing town centres at night, amounts to little more than a stealth tax that undermines the Government’s commitment to revive UK high streets, according to FPB chief executive, Phil Orford.
“Small pubs, like the rest of the small business community, are really struggling due to the current economic climate,” he said. “Consumer spending is low, while business costs are on the increase — business rates have just gone up by 5.6%.”
“Our members complain that business rates don’t represent value for money, so being forced to pay up to £4,400 a year to subsidise additional services is a massive slap in the face.”
The levy is a measure within the 2011 Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act that will allow local authorities to raise a contribution from late-opening alcohol retailers towards policing the late night economy in problem areas between midnight and 6am. Casinos, restaurants and hotel bars will be exempt from the charge.
It will be accompanied by early morning restriction orders (EMROs) that will enable local authorities to control the opening hours of businesses that sell alcohol between 3am-6am. The two measures form part of a wider crackdown on alcohol-influenced anti-social behaviour.
However, business groups feel the late night levy is a step too far and unfairly targets pubs alone. The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) issued a plea to members to object to the proposal, saying it undermined the key principle of the Licensing Act 2003, which says that premises should be dealt with “on their own merits”.
The BBPA also claimed the levy and EMROs go against the Government’s one-in, one-out approach to red tape and threatens existing partnerships between the police, local councils and the pub trade that are voluntarily funded by licensees.
BBPA spokesman Neil Williams said:
“It’s an unnecessary measure and goes against the Government’s own objective to reduce the burden on high street businesses such as pubs. With the exemptions, we’ll end up with a system that targets pubs only and we’re concerned that with its broad nature of targeting areas rather than individual businesses, it will penalise businesses that don’t cause a problem.”
Williams added that the BBPA would “wait and see” what the detailed legislation would look like once the consultation responses had been assessed.
A Home Office spokeswoman said it was too soon to tell how the responses would influence the legislation and could not put a date on its introduction. However, the Home Office official line is that “community pubs” will be unaffected as they tend not to have licenses to trade beyond midnight.