The city’s council introduced a levy in 2014, which required licensed premises operating between midnight and 6am to contribute towards improving and policing the late-night economy, but the scheme looks set to be replaced by a business improvement district (BID).
Pubs would still have to pay an extra charge to fund services and investments, but a BID spreads the burden between all business rather than just late-night licensed premises.
The council originally hoped 218 licensed premises would pay the levy, but it only affected 123 due to venues changing hours and operators handing in their licences. As a result the council collected £76,889 in its first year — less than half the expected £199,000.
Jonathan Smith, partner at the PMA’s licensing specialists Poppleston Allen, said: “From the amount that Cheltenham Council is making from the levy, they’ve probably realised it isn’t working and is just not worth it. A BID is fairer because everyone pays into it — including supermarkets, takeaways and shops.”
If the change is approved at a vote in April, the scheme would begin in August. Kevan Blackadder, manager of the Cheltenham Business Partnership, which is leading the BID proposals, said: “The BID would mean that for the first time businesses of all kinds in Cheltenham would be able to lead the way in deciding how money is spent to improve the town.”
In the first year, the sum paid in late-night levies would be deducted from their BID charge. The levy would then be scrapped altogether from April 2017.
“Projects that benefit the night-time economy would be a key part of the BID’s work and we would look to honour commitments already made under the late-night levy,” Blackadder added.
The Council said money taken from a BID would ‘far exceed’ that of a levy.
Poppleston Allen sent a Freedom of Information request to Cheltenham Council to reveal the shortfall in money made from the levy.
Smith continued: “The amount the Council made from the levy was very small, much smaller than other levies in the country. The BID will make far more money, and it is spread between businesses.
“A proportion of the levy is supposed be spent on issues in the late-night area, and 70% goes straight to the police, which won’t be the case with a BID,” he added.