Industry criticises City of London's late-night levy proposal

By Ellie Bothwell

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Late night levy, Proposal, License, City of london

The City of London Corporation says more than 50% of violent crimes in the area are alcohol related
The City of London Corporation says more than 50% of violent crimes in the area are alcohol related
Industry figures have spoken out against the City of London Corporation’s proposal for a late night levy, demanding further research must be undertaken and warning that a fee may undermine existing licensing policy.

The responses were submitted in representations as part of the three-month consultation process, which ended on Friday.

If the proposal is approved all premises licensed to sell alcohol during the supply period – between either midnight or 1am and 6am – will be charged a fee from April 2014.

Red tape

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) submitted a strong response against the proposal, highlighting concerns about the increasing levels of red tape that has impacted the pub sector in recent years.

The organisation pointed out that all premises in the City of London will have to pay the fee if they have permission to sell alcohol after the designated time, even if they only open later on one night of the year or never at all, which it deemed as “unfair”.

It also criticised that the consultation document includes no evidence for crime and disorder figures increasing in the City of London, just a “snapshot” of 2012 figures.

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “A late-night levy has real potential to damage hospitality in the City of London.  It is also unfair, as many City pubs would have to pay, even if they don’t cause problems. 

“Partnership with the trade is by far the best way forward. The City of London, so vital to tourism and trade in the capital,  should be focusing on cutting red tape for businesses like pubs, which face increasing cost pressures, at a time when more and more alcohol is drunk at home.”

Crime levels

The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) also criticised the proposal on behalf of the pub trade, highlighting both the historically low levels of crime in the City and the interdependence between the City’s late night offer and other aspects of its economy.

The body expressed concern that the proposals may undermine existing licensing policy by “effectively reintroducing a terminal hour”, despite the fact the Council encourages varied closing times. It demanded that further research needs to be undertaken “urgently” before proposals are developed.

“Before any decision is taken, much more research needs to be undertaken in three key areas:  the nature and scale of the particular problems in the night time economy which levy proceeds could counter, and whether other measures could deliver a better result; the socio-economic consequences of a levy on the competitiveness of City’s night time economy, noting police anecdotal information of changes to customer behaviour; and, whether a levy is truly financially viable,” it stated.

Licensed premises

The City of London currently has 747 premises licensed to sell alcohol, of which 290 are licensed after midnight, and 174 after 1am.

The authority would collect £475,000 from the levy if applied after midnight, or £302,000 if applied after 1am.

In its consultation document, the authority states that, excluding 10pm, the greatest number of crimes in the area are committed between midnight and 5am. It adds that just over 50% of violent crimes in the City are alcohol related, while this figure increases to 80% between midnight and 6am.

Around 40 local businesses and residents have responded to the proposal and a decision will be announced in January 2014, allowing three months for licence holders to make a free application to vary their licence if they wish to avoid paying the levy.

Related topics: Licensing law, Health & safety

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