Levy consultation jumps the gun

Related tags Late-night levy License Introduction Levy

Levy consultation jumps the gun
A council somewhat prematurely published its consultation document on its proposal to introduce a late-night levy. The consultation document has since been withdrawn, but is it the shape of things to come?

The document started with an introduction to the late-night levy and early morning restriction orders (EMROs), but quite incorrectly stated “only one or the other can be adopted, if at all, not both”.

Those whose views were being sought were immediately put on the wrong foot in the mistaken belief that a licensing authority cannot adopt both. It is possible for a licensing authority to adopt a late-night levy applying to premises selling alcohol after, say, midnight and, quite separately, an EMRO preventing any premises selling alcohol beyond 3am.

The covering letter accompanying the consultation referred to premises licence holders as being persons who the Home Office had “designated as a consultee”. The Government has not, as yet, by regulations detailed who is so designated as a consultee, although inevitably licence holders will be. Again, not only was the consultation premature but also incorrect in its factual statements.

The introduction to the document then refers to the fact that there had been “consultation between the licensing committee, corporate management group, police and interested parties”, but makes no reference to any consultation with the trade itself prior to the council’s proposal to introduce the late-night levy.  

The consultation document then went on to ask respondents to make various choices and respond to questions, when licensees had no idea whether or not they were going to be entitled by the regulations to a discretionary reduction in the levy, or whether they would fall under any exemption from payment.

The consultation suggested that the council did not propose to allow any exemptions for certain special occasions although, in all likelihood, the regulations will specify when the levy will not apply by law. The council will have no choice over such matters. With all respect, had they wanted to resist such a suggestion this should have been included in the council’s response to the Government’s consultation on the introduction of the late-night levy.

The nature of some of the questions was also ‘leading’. Various times were suggested within the consultation document beyond which those premises permitted to sell alcohol should pay the levy. There wasn’t an open-ended question as to the time, but rather tick boxes for specified times, but not running all the way through until 6am. Perhaps no premises were licensed to sell alcohol beyond this time.

Additionally, the council itself suggested when the levy should apply without having received any responses from premises licence holders. The suggested time from when the levy should apply was after the licensing authority had consulted with “the licensing committee, corporate management group, police and interested parties”.
One could be forgiven for thinking that the time had been pre-determined by the very nature of the questionnaire. To a fair-minded reader it would not, with all respect, be regarded as a document keeping an open mind about either the introduction of the levy or from what time those premises permitted to sell alcohol should pay the levy.

In short, the consultation document was premature, ill conceived and ill informed, and, thankfully, it has been withdrawn very quickly. But is this the shape of things to come, and can we expect more consultations along a similar line? If councils at least wait until the regulations have been finalised, they can consult from an informed position and, likewise, those consulted can provide informed responses.

Related topics Licensing law

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