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EATING & DRINKING

UK pubs face fee change threat

By thirsty hack Ignatius Rake

Posted February 13, 2014
booze news

Locally-set licensing fees could put UK pubs at the mercy of "cash-strapped councils", the BBPA warns.


The British Bear and Pub Association (BBPA)1 has expressed concerns regarding proposed changes to the Licensing Act 20032.

Under government plans, the current nationally-set licence fee system would be replaced by a new locally-based model.

This, the BBPA believes, could give local authorities the green light to whack up the amount of wedge pubs have to spunk up in order to operate.


GOVERNMENT LINE
Announcing the start of an eight-week public consultation that will run until this coming April 10, Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker noted in a statement to the Commons today (13/2/14) that the current fee levels have not been "adjusted" since they were introduced nine years ago by the last shower of anal effluent to squat in Number 10.

Although he probably didn't used those actual words.

However, if he stuck to the wording of the statement posted on the interweb, Baker, Lib Dem MP for Lewes and author of the The Strange Death of David Kelly, did tell the House: "The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 amended the 2003 Act to introduce a power for the Home Secretary to prescribe in regulations that in future fee levels should be set by individual licensing authorities on a cost recovery basis."

"We consider that this is the best way of enabling local government to recover their costs, as these vary significantly between areas."

"The consultation proposals have been developed with the intention of avoiding cross-subsidisation between different classes (or types) of fee payer."

"The consultation seeks views on whether and how licensing authorities should be able to charge different classes of fee payer different amounts and what the cap on each fee should be."

"It also seeks views on how best to provide guidance to licensing authorities so as to ensure that unjustifiably high costs and 'gold-plating' (exceeding the requirements of the 2003 Act) are avoided and efficiency encouraged."


CAPS AND BANDS
In a BBPA press release received by the Rake & Herald via email, the Association's CEO Brigid Simmonds states: "While it is right that the Home Office has accepted the principle of a cap on fees, the proposed limits are far too high and the removal of bands could hit smaller premises hard."

"A pub in Band B, the most typical band, would currently pay £180 [$300] per year for their licence, yet the new cap proposed is £740."

"With such high caps, there is still a real danger that cash-strapped councils will be tempted to hike up fees dramatically, damaging local pubs."

"Pubs do not enjoy any subsidy; they pay hugely into public coffers through the taxation system, through beer and other alcohol duties, business rates and a host of other taxes."

"We will be making this very clear in our response."


Ignatius Rake is a freelance journalist and geographer who has so far visited 70 countries on six continents. A published lyricist, he has fronted punk bands in both the UK and Poland, including the only band ever to be kicked off BBC Radio Cornwall. He has been known to like a pint.


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Footnotes


1) The BBPA describes itself as "the UK's leading organisation representing the brewing and pub sector", with its members accounting for "96% of the beer brewed in the UK and around half of Britain's 49,500 pubs".

2) In the words of the UK government, the Licensing Act 2003 "regulates the sale of alcohol, the provision of late night refreshment and regulated entertainment in England and Wales and is primarily administered by local authorities, acting in their capacity as licensing authorities". Licensing fees, it continues, "are intended to recover the costs that licensing authorities incur in carrying out their licensing functions under the 2003 Act and are payable to licensing authorities by holders of licences and certificates and those making applications or issuing notices".



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