Pubs to be charged for council services

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Pubs will be forced to pay up to £8,500 for litter collections, extra policing and street stewards under a new scheme being introduced in...

Pubs will be forced to pay up to £8,500 for litter collections, extra policing and street stewards under a new scheme being introduced in Middlesbrough.

Licensees and pub operators have reacted angrily to news that Middlesbrough council has approved plans to get new city centre businesses to pay a fee to cover the extra cost of late-night services.

The scheme has won widespread support among residents and councillors and it is feared that if it proves successful it will be taken up by councils across the UK.

The charge, which would be made under planning laws, would be compulsory for any new build pub or outlet that has applied for planning permission for alterations.

A sliding scale would be set according to the size of the site, the opening hours and how near it is to residential areas, with a maximum fee of £8,500 for the largest pubs and clubs.

But the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and other trade groups have hit out saying pubs already pay more than their fair share of taxes and has vowed to fight the plans all the way.

Spokesman Mark Hastings said: "Pubs already pay significant amounts in tax to both local and central government to supply these services - in fact our figures show that over 30p in every £1 that comes over the bar goes straight out the door in tax.

"Local authorities should acknowledge that pubs have attracted businesses and tourists and brought new life back to city centres and they should not be penalised for it."

He added that the BBPA would be looking into the legality of the council's plans to force businesses to pay up.

There is also concern that a consultation on the issue failed to include local licensees and operators.

The British Institute of Innkeeping, one of only two trade groups that were approached for their opinion, said it had strongly opposed the move in a letter to the council.

Spokeswoman Georgina Wald said: "It is ridiculous charging licensees for services that should already be paid for through business rates and tax. The fear is that other local authorities will now follow suit on this and I just hope that the trade is included in any consultation."

But Ron Lowes, an executive Board member with Middlesbrough council, defended the scheme.

He said: "The kind of businesses we are talking about, which operate late at night and attract large numbers of people, can cause a nuisance to residents and make work for the council, police and other agencies - however well they may be run.

"It is absolutely right they should pay towards extra policing, security or clean-up costs."

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