Cambridge University academics attack Newcastle's night time levy

Newcastle's night time levy is based on a lack of sound evidence, criminologists from Cambridge University have claimed

A scene all too familiar on the streets of Newcastle as two men lie drunk on the ground
A scene all too familiar on the streets of Newcastle as two men lie drunk on the ground

Newcastle's night time levy is based on a lack of sound evidence, criminologists from Cambridge University have claimed.

The policy, introduced last month, that imposes charges on pubs and clubs open after midnight is one of a series of political interventions that have been implemented with only weak evidence, the academics say.

This includes the introduction of 24-hour drinking in the UK, which has failed to reduce street violence their research found.

Criminologists researched crime statistics both before and after the introduction of the Licensing Act 2003 which staggered closing times beyond the traditional 11pm cut-off in a bid to curb alcohol-related trouble.

They said the act was built on “weak evidence that contradicted more credible and empirically-supported theories about alcohol availability and harm”, and has not succeeded in having any impact on attacks.

Dr David Humphreys, who conducted the research, suggested the “late-night levy” in Newcastle would suffer from a similar lack of sound research. He said: “While the emphasis on change and improvement should be encouraged, the enthusiasm to act needs to be balanced with careful and systematic attempts to understand the implications and effectiveness of these interventions.”

Newcastle City Centre Pubwatch chairman Damian Conway has spoken out against the levy.

He said: “We feel very strongly that the majority of drinking is done before people arrive in the city centre and we are not the root of the problem.”

But Stephen Savage, Newcastle City Council assistant director public safety and regulation, defended the policy. He said: “We believe it will help ensure businesses make a reasonable contribution towards the costs of cleaning up the night-time economy. There is no doubt that other measures, for example minimum unit pricing, would help tackle the enormous social and economic damage caused by excess alcohol consumption – and we will continue to lobby the Government to introduce these.”

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