Government plans cap on late-night levy

By John Harrington, M&C Report

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Late-night levy Proposal House of lords Government

Government: consultation on exemptions to late night levy
Government: consultation on exemptions to late night levy
The Government has insisted that councils will be restrained from charging what they like in licence fees.

The Government has promised a detailed consultation into exemptions under the proposed late-night levy — and insisted that councils will be restrained from charging what they like in licence fees.

The Government was pressed on its plans to reform licensing in the House of Lords, as a number of proposed amendments to the reforms were withdrawn or thrown out during the latest committee hearing on the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement-Jones proposed several changes to the legislation around the controversial late-night levy, which would see late-night pubs and clubs in designated areas forced to pay an extra charge.

These included extending the ability of councils to determine the geographical spread of areas that would be covered by the levy, to avoid a "broad-brush" approach that would force more venues away from hotspots to pay.

Other amendments included ensuring that venues open late just once a year won't have to pay the charge because this would discourage late-night opening on New Year's Eve, while another seeks reductions for venues in schemes such as pubwatch and Best Bar None.

Home Office minister Baroness Browning said these amendments "pre-empt our public consultation".

She said the Government has "struck the right balance" in the proposal. "Significant administrative and legal burdens have purposely been avoided. We have created a tool that licensing authorities can easily use. The late-night levy will be a proportionate contribution towards policing costs shared by all businesses that profit from selling alcohol in a safe late-night economy."

Concerns were raised about the apparent ability of councils to charge excessive licence fees — the Bill proposes giving them powers to charge "full cost recovery".

Clement-Jones labelled

the wording of the Bill "extremely vague", saying it suggests that general costs

of council departments

such as planning, not just licensing, should be covered by the charge. "Businesses have a real concern that some councils may charge excessive amounts based on their costs, which will be difficult and expensive to challenge," he said.

Government spokesman Lord De Mauley said: "We intend to make each fee subject to a nationally set cap, and we will consult on the level of that cap."

He also promised "detailed guidance" for local authorities on the fees they can set.

A bid to shift the start time of Early Morning Restriction Orders to 1am and double the size of fines for buying alcohol on behalf of under-18s to £10,000 were also rejected.

Related topics Licensing law

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