Nationally set licensing fees are costing councils approximately £1.5m a month according to the Local Government Association (LGA). Our feature writer, Suzanne Danon, investigates why.
Since the fees were introduced in 2005 councils have been unable to recover the full cost of licensing applications from pubs, nightclubs and off-licences, and the LGA has once again called for councils to be able to introduce their own locally set fees.
LGA analysis revealed the cost to local authorities since 2005 now stood at £169.5m, which could have been used by cash strapped councils to fix three million potholes, or alternatively cover a quarter of annual street cleaning costs for English councils. Salaries for more than 5,000 social workers and 9,000 care workers could also have been covered.
Cllr Tony Page, LGA Licencing spokesman said it was “unacceptable” for councils to keep being forced to spend millions each year to subsidise the drinks industry.
“Councils are desperate to settle this ever-growing tab once and for all. We need the Government to finally honour its commitment to introduce locally set fees to allow local authorities to recover the cost of applications and end such a needless waste of taxpayers’ money,” he added.
The LGA also urged the Home Office to respond to the consultation on introducing locally set fees, which it launched last February.
But Crime Prevention Minister Lynne Featherstone said the Government was addressing the issue and was confident councils had been given “stronger powers”.
She explained the right approach had to be taken to tackle the “complex issue” of the fees regime of the Licensing Act 2003, which affects a wide range of businesses, community groups and local government.
Ms Featherstone said: “The government has consulted on the introduction of locally set licensing fees and is considering the responses to the public consultation and the evidence submitted by local authorities before deciding how to proceed.”
She added that the Government had acted swiftly to give local councils stronger powers to tackle irresponsible premises and cut red tape including allowing them to collect a levy from businesses selling alcohol late at night, and introducing the suspension of licences for non-payment of fees under the Licensing Act 2003. The Minster said this would “ensure that councils receive fees that should be paid”.
Are you invovled in council licensing? What are your views on nationally set fees? We'd like to hear your thoughts.