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Firms warn Southwark late-night levy could be ‘devastating’

Businesses have described plans to introduce a late-night levy on pubs and clubs in Southwark as ‘devastating’.

Councillors are due to meet later today (17 July) to discuss the proposal, which will see businesses selling alcohol between the hours of midnight and 6am across the London borough pay a surcharge to help cover the costs of cleaning and policing the streets after hours.

The council report recommends exemptions for hotels, theatres and cinemas, which are serving alcohol after midnight.

Local authorities have the power to introduce a late-night levy under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 and any money raised must be split between the council and the local police force.

Around three quarters (70%) of the money would go to the Metropolitan Police, while the remaining 30% would go to the council.

The report states that late night policing costs have ‘increased considerably’ to around £298,500 a year, while the night-time economy also costs the council £40,000 a year.

‘Unless alternative funding is found there is a real likelihood that the services provided by the police and council night-time economy teams will be reduced or lost,’ the report states.

According to a House of Commons research paper, published in March, 10 local authorities have late-night levies in place, including Islington, Camden and Newcastle.

All licensed premises in Islington authorised to sell alcohol between midnight and 6am hours have to pay an annual levy of between £299 and £4,400, depending on their rateable value and whether the premises are primarily or exclusively used to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises.

But the proposed introduction of the levy in Southwark has been opposed by some local businesses and the trade body UKHospitality, which plans to hand in a petition against the proposals today.

‘The number of people, businesses, customers and local residents, who have come together to oppose this new tax shows how strongly they feel about it,’ said UKHospitality chief executive, Kate Nicholls.

‘It also highlights how wrong Southwark council is to even consider this unsuitable and dangerous new tax. The levy has already been dismissed by the House of Lords Committee on Licensing which recommended it be abolished.

‘Hospitality businesses in Southwark have helped drive regeneration over the years and they came together to support the community following the devastating attack two years ago. Now, they are being squeezed by a council only interested in another tax, even if it undermines businesses, loses jobs and harms investment in the community.’

The chief executive and founder of the Beds & Bars accommodation and pub chain, Keith Knowles added: ‘Southwark is a lively and vibrant area and venues, particularly those in and around London Bridge, are renowned as some of the most exciting in the country.

‘We have invested lots of time, money and energy over the years, along with other businesses, to help regenerate the area. After all that we have contributed, it is devastating to see the council decide just to foist another tax on us.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart

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