Ground-breaking move means Cheltenham late-night levy will be canned

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Late-night levy, Local government

First of its kind: the late-night levy U-turn has been welcomed
First of its kind: the late-night levy U-turn has been welcomed
Cheltenham Borough Council has decided to scrap its late-night levy in favour of a business improvement district (BID), a decision that is the first of its kind.

The decision to abolish the levy comes after a consultation in November last year​, which represented the first time a council had consulted on ending a late-night levy after the council did not receive the level of revenue it had predicted after it implemented the charge in 2014.

A BID is a defined area in which all businesses must pay a charge, as opposed to late-night-opening businesses only paying the late-night levy, which creates a pool of money to pay for night-time services such as extra police and street pastors.

The Associated of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) had previously slammed the council’s decision to implement the levy​ but have now lauded the U-turn.

ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The ALMR has repeatedly stated that if local authorities are concerned with tackling perceived areas of alcohol-related harm and disorder, measures to work with, not against, the sector are far more helpful."

Financial pressure

She added: “Late-night levies are indiscriminate and heap financial pressure onto venues that are already contributing financially to the success of their areas.”

Nicholls dubbed levies as “a blunt tool that penalises hard-working businesses, which threatens stability and investment” and said it was unlikely they effectively tackle any issues a council may have.

She said: “The ALMR liaised closely with Cheltenham Borough Council throughout the initial consultation phase and has strongly opposed the introduction of similar measures across the country."

She labelled the U-turn encouraging and urged other local authorities considering the introduction of a levy to follow Cheltenham’s example, to focus on partnership schemes and close working relationships with the hospitality industry to help promote healthy attitudes.

“It is very encouraging to see the council see sense and abandon a measure that is potentially very harmful to local businesses,” she added.

No reinvestment

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds hailed the turnaround as a wise decision.

She said: “A levy was implemented in 2014 but it has failed to reach expected revenue targets​, raising less than 39% of the £199,000 figure that had been predicted in the first year.

“Small businesses like pubs contribute to the levy but the funds collected are not reinvested to tackle the particular problems these small businesses face.

“Local pubs are already struggling with high business rates, other taxes and red tape, and the decision to remove this extra tax is very welcome.”

She explained the body will continue to oppose late-night levies, campaigning against them wherever they are proposed.

Simmonds added: “Other councils, such as Leeds and Bristol, have taken the decision to abandon late-night levy plans and it’s very encouraging to see a levy removed for the first time.”

Meanwhile, Gloucester City Council is to vote on whether to impose a late-night levy on 23 March 2017. If passed by full council, the levy could be in place from 1 July 2017.

Related topics: Licensing law

Related news

Show more