The rate of pub closures may have dropped to 25 a week but it is still an industry in decline. So what have the Local Government Association (LGA) successfully lobbied for? Well an increase in fees that pubs pay for their licence! Yet another tax on the pub will form part of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill and will allow councils to set the fees they charge pubs.
As anyone who has had regular dealings with local councils over the years, it is a fact that the majority of these councils are overstaffed and inefficient, employing jobsworths and busybodies whose sole purpose in life is to stilffle new business and interfere in successful business with more red tape.
Jobsworth and apologist for council non-jobs Cllr Nilgun Canver, the LGA’s licensing busybody, said it was “vital for public protection” that councils can take swift action against individuals and pubs, but “it all costs money”.
She added: “Operating the current licensing system has cost council tax payers over £100m more than anticipated and given the current economic climate, could not be sustained.”
Well my answer is to give licencing back to the courts where it was dealt with at a far cheaper cost to the taxpayer. A publican I know used to pay £50 every two years to renew his licence, this has now increased to over £250 a year for the same bit of paper that allows him to selll beer in his pub. So the obvious answer is that the ineficient council cannot do the job in a cost-effect way so the solution is to take the job away from the council. Better for the publican and the consumer all round.
Nick Bish, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said the new plans will have a “devastating impact on pubs, bars and restaurants across the country”.
He added: “Councils are already facing significant budget cuts so the temptation will be all too great to use licensing fees as a revenue raising exercise.”
Martin Rawlings, director of pub & leisure at the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “This does not sit well with the freeze on small business regulation which the Chancellor announced last week.
“In our meetings with the Home Office we have consistently made the point that if the government is intent on introducing locally set fees, then they must be capped in the same way as gaming licence fees. We will continue to lobby hard for a national cap on licensing fees in the regulations.”
And licensees are fearing the worst after news of the change on fees. Andy Brooks of the Laughing Fish, Isfield, East Sussex, said his fixed costs were already far too high.
“For our licence fees to go up as well will be a real blow,” he said. “It’s about time this government and the LGA did something for pus and stopped adding to the difficulties we face.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Under our proposal, Licensing Authorities will be able to set the level of the fee within a nationally-set cap. The level of the cap will be set out in regulations which will be consulted on before being introduced.”
The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill is due to become law next year.
Hat Tip to SIBA for the story