AS Newcastle City Council go out to consultation on the introduction of a late night levy throughout their authority area it is important for operators of licensed premises to understand what is proposed and how to get involved in the process.
Why are they being introduced?
The Government aim to rebalance the Licensing Act 2003 in favour of local communities by allowing local authorities to charge a levy to those premises which benefit from the existence of the late night economy. The money raised will then be used to tackle alcohol-related problems in local areas.
What is it?
It’s a new discretionary power available to Local Authorities. If an authority introduces it they can collect an annual fee from all licensed premises authorised to supply alcohol between 12 until 6am.
Are Newcastle City Council going to introduce a levy?
Newcastle City Council (NCC) has agreed to consult on the introduction of a levy and, whilst it is not yet definite that a levy will be introduced, it is highly likely that one will be.
Who will it affect?
All licensed premises within the authority area, which are licensed to supply alcohol during the late night supply period, will be affected.
What is the late-night supply period?
This is the period during which the levy kicks in. It is understood that NCC will charge a levy for those premises which supply alcohol during the period from 12-6am. These are the maximum hours set permitted under legislation.
Will there be any exemptions to the levy?
The legislation permits certain categories of premises to be exempt form the levy but this only applies if a licensing authority opts to implement those exemptions.
NCC are considering exemptions for:
Premises with overnight accommodation
Theatres and cinemas
Community sports clubs
Premises that only open late on New Year’s Eve.
Are there any reductions available?
Licensing authorities can offer reductions but again it is down to their discretion. The maximum reduction that can be applied is 30% of the levy. Reductions only apply to premises that are either a) members of a business-led best practice scheme (Best Bar None, Pubwatch) or b) in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief and have a rateable value of less than £12,000.
NCC have indicated that a reduction will not be available for current business-led best practice schemes or small businesses.
However, NCC are considering introducing a new business-led best practice scheme and membership of that is likely to lead to reductions in the levy.
Where does the money go?
Minimum of 70% of the net levy revenue goes to the police and the remainder to the Licensing Authority.
The police can spend it on what they want but it is expected that NCC will reach agreement with Northumbria Police that all funds will be spent on services connected to the management of the night time economy and services that prevent and tackle alcohol related crime and disorder.
How will the levy be collected?
It will be collected annually and will be recoverable as a debt. Non-payment can lead to suspension of premises licence.
When will the levy come into force in Newcastle?
Implementation is likely to be November 1, 2013.
Is there anything I should do as an operator of licensed premises?
As part of the consultation process the licensing authority will write to you. You will get the chance to give your views on the date of implementation, hours it will apply, exemptions and reductions to be applied.
:: ANSWERS Sarah Smith, Partner, Sintons LLP, 0191 226 4897