BBPA slams proposals for Tower Hamlets late-night levy

By Fred A'Court

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Tax, Local government

Wrong approach: plans for a late night levy (LNL) in Tower Hamlets have been slammed by the BBPA
Wrong approach: plans for a late night levy (LNL) in Tower Hamlets have been slammed by the BBPA
Controversial proposals for a late-night levy (LNL) in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets have again been slammed by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).

It has urged the council to scrap the proposal, labelling it a punitive and damaging new tax on businesses that puts nearly 3,000 pub jobs at risk in the borough.

Responding to a second consultation on the LNL issued by Tower Hamlets after errors in a previous consultation, the BBPA has urged the council to instead look to pursue a business improvement district (BID) scheme.

BIDs are a defined area in which a levy is charged on all business-rate payers in addition to the business rates. This levy is used to develop projects which will benefit businesses in the local area.

The wrong approach

Chief executive Brigid Simmonds said the BBPA’s latest response to Tower Hamlets was consistent with its response to the first consultation in calling for the Council to rethink the LNL.

“Tower Hamlets must reconsider, especially given that a House of Lords Committee has recently published a report criticising the policy and recommending that LNLs be abolished” she said.

“For businesses in Tower Hamlets, a LNL would represent a damaging new tax – it is the wrong approach. The focus should be on partnership working, with the police and local business, to address any issues in the night-time economy.”

The BBPA has also written to the council strongly urging it to take into account the concerns of local businesses. Its letter underlines its position that LNLs do not work effectively to address local alcohol-related issues, and points to the recent example of Cheltenham Borough Council, which scrapped levy plans after listening to its concerns.

Consumer choice

The beer and pub sector employs more than 2,800 people in Tower Hamlets, contributing around £116m to the local economy and pouring £9.7m of investment back into the area annually.

Local councils in England and Wales have the discretionary power to charge or levy licensed premises for late-night opening. The levy cover the costs of managing the area late at night, and several are in place across England in city areas.

Real-ale campaign organisation CAMRA agrees that the use of LNLs is a threat to pubs as it is an extra tax burden that could risk avoidable pub closures and restrict consumer choice. ‘The prescriptive format of the levy means that small community pubs will be adversely affected, and may change their licensing hours to avoid paying the levy’ it says on its website.

It produced a joint report with the BBPA about LNLs that highlights the benefits of partnership working through schemes such as PubWatch, Purple Flag, Best Bar None and BIDs as alternative, more successful ways to manage the late-night economy.

The ALMR says it successfully challenged the council’s previous attempt to introduce a levy, highlighting flaws in the original consultation document and pledged to continue fighting against a levy in the borough.

ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said that it will watch the council closely and urge them to not heap costs on businesses and threaten the innovative, exciting and incredibly important nightlife that currently exists in Tower Hamlets.

The ALMR recently liaised with the London mayor and urged him to act to ensure that late-night levies are not introduced in the capital. “We will continue to oppose these measures wherever they are considered in any part of the UK and will urge local authorities to work with businesses, not against them, to find solutions to any issues they may have,” Nicholls said at the time.

Related topics: Legislation

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