Many figures in the sector, including the London night czar Amy Lamé, have called for adjustments to local authorities’ late-night levies while pubs are closed and while they financially recover from the coronavirus crisis.
However, these levies are set by the central Government so, as it stands, councils are unable to refund or reduce current payments.
Now, Newcastle City Council has joined those calling on the Government for new powers for councils.
City council leader Nick Forbes has asked Simon Clarke, Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government, for the freedom to waive or reduce fees on its businesses according to local need.
Forbes wrote to Clarke: “In the current climate, we are being asked by the licensed trade to reduce their levy fee due to forced closure and lack of income.”
The council’s lawyers and the Local Government Association have confirmed councils do not have discretion to waive or alter fees due under the Licensing Act 2003, with the exception of those set out in regulations.
Forbes continued: “While we value the income from the levy scheme and the best practice it is underpinning, I urge you to consider what additional flexibilities can be given to local councils to set their own fee structures and have discretion for waiving or altering fees under certain circumstances.”
He said a change was needed “as soon as practically possible” so the council could support its licensed businesses through the closure period and with reopening.
The city was the first in the country to implement a late-night levy in 2013, though the spotlight has been on London boroughs controversially taking up a levy in more recent years.
The levy is an annual fee of between £299 and £4,440, paid by 240 licensed premises in Newcastle, with funds going towards the reduction of crime and disorder in the night-time economy.
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