Pubs face charge for safety checks

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Pubs which breach food safety regulations could end up footing the bill for council inspections under new proposals.Westminster City Council is...

Pubs which breach food safety regulations could end up footing the bill for council inspections under new proposals.

Westminster City Council is calling on the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to introduce charges for premises which have breached food safety regulations and need re-inspection.

Councillors claim the added cost would be an additional incentive to publicans and restaurateurs to keep their premises up to standard.

The idea was prompted by a report from the FSA earlier this month which showed that food poisoning incidents caused by poor hygiene standards in pubs and restaurants were far more widespread than had been thought.

Councillor Charles Cronin, vice-chairman of Westminster's environment and leisure committee, said: "Enforcing food safety standards in Westminster is a top priority for the council and we have taken robust action where necessary in order to protect the public from unsafe and unhygienic food premises.

"However, re-inspections, although necessary, are costly. We have been working with the FSA and other local authorities to develop proposals that will not only reduce the need for additional inspections, but also go some way to covering our costs."

The FSA report concluded that more than half of consumers were concerned that food safety regulations did not go far enough to protect diners in the UK.

Their fears have been compounded by recent scares over BSE and salmonella.

But licensees fear introducing charges for re-inspections could lead to further demands for businesses to foot the bill for the increasingly regular programme of inspections.

Environmental Health Officers have been told to increase the number of inspections they do on premises, including pubs, to meet new targets.

Brian Rees, past-chairman of the Guild of Master Victuallers, said: "If licensees are not keeping up hygiene standards then they are putting people's lives at risk and we cannot condone that.

"But it is ludicrous to put any more financial burdens on pubs - they simply can't take it. We already pay our business rates and charges to the council to empty our bins and that should be plenty to cover the cost of extra inspections.

"Most licensees are professional people. I have always found the environmental health officers are quite fair and I have always done everything they asked of me, but we can't keep footing the bill for the council."

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