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Trade reiterates calls for alternative to late-night levy

By Nikkie Sutton , 16-Mar-2017
Last updated on 16-Mar-2017 at 10:44 GMT2017-03-16T10:44:42Z

Night tax: campaigners want Gloucester to scrap its late-night levy
Night tax: campaigners want Gloucester to scrap its late-night levy

Trade bodies have strengthened calls for an alternative approach to Gloucester’s late-night levy and to look at nearby Cheltenham for inspiration.

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has urged Gloucester City Council to look at nearby Cheltenham Borough Council, which scrapped its late-night levy in favour of a business improvement district (BID).

A BID is a defined area in which all businesses must pay a charge, as opposed to late-night-opening businesses only paying the late-night levy, which creates a pool of money to pay for night-time services such as extra police and street pastors.

The BBPA submitted a detailed response to Gloucester City Council’s consultation, arguing that a late-night levy is an indiscriminate tax on local business that unfairly penalises pubs.

There are more than 70 pubs in Gloucester, which contribute £43m to the local economy and employ more than 1,600 people, according to the BBPA.

The trade body argues that a late-night levy would add further cost pressures at the worst possible time.

A late-night levy is not the answer

It has urged Gloucester to look at nearby Cheltenham, which abolished its late-night levy in a ground-breaking move.

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “We all want to see a safer drinking environment but a late-night levy is not the right answer.

“It is an additional tax, not a partnership and we have seen elsewhere that schemes between local businesses, the council and police can produce very positive results without placing an undue burden on local pubs.

“Cheltenham implemented a late-night levy in 2014 but has recently abolished it in favour of existing partnership schemes including the business improvement district (BID).

“I would urge Gloucester to look at the example set by Cheltenham and those set by Cheshire East, Bristol and Leeds councils, which have all rejected a levy and pursued a more positive approach.”

Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) chief executive Kate Nicholls slammed the late-night levy due to the burden it puts on the hospitality sector.

Pubs are not cash cows to be milked

She said: “The introduction of a late-night levy in Gloucester will increase financial pressure on hard-working venues, undermine investment and could potentially put jobs at risk.

“Councillors in nearby Cheltenham have wisely decided to abandon the levy in favour of promoting the BID after realising what the ALMR has been saying for years: that the levy is a blunt tool, ineffective for promoting healthier attitudes to alcohol and ill-equipped to tackle any perceived areas of harm.

“We still need to see a fundamental change in the way local authorities work with the pubs, bars and nightclubs in their areas.

“These are hard-working businesses that contribute both economically and socially. They are great assets to their towns and cities, not cash cows to be milked.

“The ALMR has been the only national trade association actively challenging the introduction of measures such as the late-night levy across the UK and we will continue to promote alternatives to such draconian measures.”

A decision on the late-night levy is due to be made by the council on Thursday 23 March.

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