£1m per week for licensing reforms

By John Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Home office, Late-night levy, License

David Cameron recently said the Government was a friend of the pub but reforms could cost £1m a week
David Cameron recently said the Government was a friend of the pub but reforms could cost £1m a week
The Government's overhaul of licensing could cost the industry up to £1m — per week. The startling costs are outlined in a report from the Home Office this week — as trade chiefs savage the proposals that they say will add massive burdens to pu

The Government's overhaul of licensing could cost the industry up to £1m — per week.

The startling costs are outlined in a report from the Home Office this week — as trade chiefs savage the proposals that they say will add massive burdens to pubs.

They also accuse the Government of dithering over plans to tackle cheap supermarket alcohol by not including the ban on below-cost sales in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill.

The Bill proposes a late-night levy for operators; giving everyone the chance to comment on licensing applications — not just those living close to the premises; doubling maximum fines for persistent underage sales to £20,000; and giving health bodies greater say over licensing by making them responsible authorities.

Official estimates from the Home Office's Impact Assessment put the annual cost of reform to the industry at £21.5m to £52.1m, with the "best estimate" of £36.8m.

British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: "Several proposals would increase red tape. A night-time levy would add to cost for pubs without recognising that problems increasingly results from people drinking at home before they go out.

"Health services are to be made 'responsible authorities', which will create more bureaucracy for the NHS. Licensees will also have to provide a range of information on their local area when they make applications."

Judge and jury

Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers head of communications Kate Nicholls said: "Allowing licensing authorities to become responsible authorities will make them judge and jury in licensing cases."

Michael Kheng, boss of Lincolnshire bar group Kurnia, branded the proposed power to health bodies as "absolutely crazy". And he questioned the need to increase underage sales fines. "The existing £10,000 fine has never been enforced, so why double it?" he asked.

This view was echoed by John Ellis, owner of the Crown Inn at Oakengates, Shropshire. "It's all to make headlines and it will satisfy some Daily Mail readers."

Ellis feared councils would use the late-night levy as an income generator, regardless of the true situation in each area. The Bill also proposes scrapping alcohol disorder zones and reviewing the mandatory alcohol retailing code within 12 months of its introduction.

What's the cost?

The Impact Assessment from the Home Office breaks down the annual cost of the licensing plans on the industry.

• Late-night levy: £9m-£15m

• Increased licence refusals: £5.8m-£12.8m

• Deterred temporary events notices: £1m-£8m

• More restrictive outcomes of reviews/hearings: £0.4m-£3m

• Cost of hearings/reviews: £1.7m-£4m

• Increased licence conditions: £0.3m-£0.6m

• Increased administration cost of applications: £0.4m-£0.8m

Related topics: Licensing law