BBPA attacks police fee plan

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The trade has hit out against suggestions that it should fork out to cover the cost of drink-related crime.According to speculation, Home Office...

The trade has hit out against suggestions that it should fork out to cover the cost of drink-related crime.

According to speculation, Home Office ministers are considering forcing town centre pubs to pay for policing costs.

The levy could be included in a White Paper on anti-social behaviour which is set to be published within the next couple of weeks.

Rob Hayward, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), said: "We are very seriously concerned by the news.

"Our sector generates more than £12bn of revenue for the Treasury in taxes on sales alone.

"There is no logic for charging pubs and not supermarkets or off-licences and we have no idea how the regulations are going to be drawn up."

Mr Hayward said the BBPA made a submission to the Home Office when this issue was first raised more than a year ago.

"We've heard absolutely nothing for a year and now we are being told this is being incorporated in a White Paper which will be published in a couple of weeks," Mr Hayward said.

He has written to Bob Ainsworth at the Home Office to voice his concerns.

The Home Office said it could not comment on impending White Papers but reiterated the statement it made in December 2001, when the issue was first discussed.

It said: "The government is concerned at the cost of policing entertainment venues, particularly clubs operating late at night, and wishes to explore with the industry the potential for contributions to policing costs incurred by specific entertainment venues.

"We want to look at how we can proactively build on voluntary agreements already in place."

This refers to a scheme that operates in Peter Street, Manchester. Two police officers patrol the street: one is paid for by local pubs and bars and the other by the police authority.

Stuart Jordan, licensee of the Escape in Soho, said: "I don't see why we should pay police fees. We pay a huge amount in rates and taxes and don't get anything back for that.

"This is about policing people's behaviour, not the venue itself, and that is the government's responsibility."

It was rumoured in the Financial Times last week that the Home Office could try to incorporate the measures into the new Licensing Bill.

But Caroline Nodder, spokeswoman for the British Institute of Innkeeping, said as far as she was aware there had been no discussions about doing that.

"We wouldn't expect it to be tagged on to licensing reform - it is usually part of planning. The government has promised to set fees so local authorities could look elsewhere to bring in extra revenue.

"As usual, pubs are seen as cash cows. It's unfair on them as they more than contribute to local economies."

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of Business in Sport and Leisure, agreed: "Pubs and late-night venues pay business taxes and shouldn't have to pay additional police fees. They should be paid out of the public purse."

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