Responding to proposed changes to the Policing and Crime Bill, the ALMR has reiterated its call for the Government to rethink its approach to the late-night levy and to promote partnership schemes to avoid increased costs for businesses.
Amendments, due to be debated by the House of Lords at Committee stage, would allow for the late- night levy to be restricted geographically, enable Police and Crime Commissioners to request a levy consultation and require local authorities to publish information on how levy-raised funds are spent.
ALMR Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “These amendments shift the legislation further away from the Government’s stance in its original guidance; that the late-night levy should only be a last-resort, when other options have been exhausted. These new measures would introduce a degree of transparency, but this sort of punitive measure could quickly become the first port of call for local authorities.
“Allowing the levy to be restricted geographically and giving PCCs the power to request a consultation could potentially make it much easier for a council to introduce a levy. The ALMR has consistently opposed the introduction of a blanket tax on businesses and we continue to urge councils to explore partnership schemes before considering the levy. Currently, Cheltenham Council is looking at scrapping its levy in favour of a Business Improvement District. The levy may not have the intended effect of addressing any alcohol-related concerns but will impose a significant financial burden on pubs and bars.
“These amendments – like the CIPs in 2004 – have been introduced at the 11th hour, with no detailed public consultation. They could significantly extend the tax on businesses, and ignore the principle that regulators should have regard to economic growth.
“CIPs have succeeded only in adulterating the planning process and ignore the context of licence applications. All CIPs over a decade old need to be reviewed to ensure they are still valid. The Government has missed an opportunity to amend legislation of CIPs to ensure they remain suitable and relevant.
“We need a clear legal commitment that the levy will only be pursued as a matter of last resort and that councils will support local businesses, have regard to growth and act impartially and fairly. We are disappointed that the Government has missed an opportunity to make the legislation for purpose by introducing evidence and hearing requirements that will support growth in their areas.”