Westminster makes loss over PELs

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: New licensing regime, Kim howells, London, Dcms

Concerns about the level of fees to be charged under the new licensing regime came under scrutiny again this week.It has been revealed that the...

Concerns about the level of fees to be charged under the new licensing regime came under scrutiny again this week.

It has been revealed that the controversial Westminster City Council made a loss on issuing public entertainment licenses (PELs) last year, despite concerns by some bar operators about the high fee levels.

The council's record was defended by Westminster MP Mark Field, as plans in the Licensing Bill to set fees centrally were being debated in Parliament.

Mr Field said that in the last financial year, Westminster spent around £1.8m on administering PELs, but raised less than £1.5m. Mr Field said he welcomed assurances from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) that a central fee will be set at a level that will cover all associated costs.

"There are distinct problems in certain parts of the country. It is hard to envisage how the DCMS will come up with a 'one size fits all' fee that does not involve local authorities making a loss or a profit," he said.

Under the new regime PELs will be abolished and licensees will need to pay a standard licensing fee.

Licensing minister Dr Kim Howells said the DCMS was still discussing the exact level of fees with local authorities.

He said: "The intention is that fees will be set in bands, based on the size and location of the venues and, in some circumstances, on how busy they are." A geographical element, which might make allowances for special cases such as central London, is also being considered.

Last month Andrew Cunningham, head of alcohol and licensing at the DCMS, confirmed that ministers were adamant that all fees should be set centrally and not through local authorities.

He said the fees being discussed were between £100 and £500, depending which band a pub falls into.

But the new banding system would be brought in to ensure that small pubs pay less than their larger rivals.

One solution currently being discussed is fees being related to a pub's rateable value which takes turnover and location into account.

Related topics: Legislation

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