Westminster Council: Charge for licence application advice is "lawful"

By Adam Pescod

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Expert peter coulson, City of westminster, Westminster, City of london, City council

Legal: Westminster Council claims there is nothing unlawful about its new charges for advice on licence applications
Legal: Westminster Council claims there is nothing unlawful about its new charges for advice on licence applications
Westminster City Council has defended its new charges on advice for licence applications after one licensing expert suggested they “could be illegal”.

The Publican’s Morning Advertiser reported two weeks ago that licensees looking to open a new outlet within the City of Westminster will now have to pay up to £1,144.50 if they want council advice prior to applying for a licence.

The fees are intended to cover the cost of processing pre-applications, as well as the time officers currently spend on giving advice.

However, licensing expert Peter Coulson has raised concerns over the charges and claims that they are definitely “open to challenge”.

“The point is whether or not charging for doing their [the council’s] job is legal,” said Coulson. “There was a case in the 1980s which confirmed that licensing authorities were not able to impose ‘extraneous charges’ beyond the licence fees laid down by Parliament.”

A Westminster City Council spokesperson said: “It’s an entirely voluntary option for a would-be applicant, it’s not in anyway compulsory and the charges are lawful.”

And that view is backed by licensing law firm Poppleston Allen, which believes that the charges are legal because the advice is not compulsory.

Andy Grimsey of Poppleston Allen said: “It would be illegal if WCC started stipulating you had to pay for pre-app.”

He added that any “favouritism” could also make it unlawful.

Related topics: Licensing law, Health & safety

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