No late-night levy over fears for Bognor pub industry

A tax on Bognor Regis pubs and clubs open after midnight has been ruled out.

Councillors agreed to opt out of the government’s proposed late night levy for licensed premises after they were told it could wreck the industry.

The decision by Arun District Council’s licensing and enforcement committee last Friday followed a report by its licensing and development officer, Sarah Meertens.

The levy would cost businesses between an extra £399 up to £4,440 based on their rateable value.

“When I am out and about working at night, visiting the premises, I am being told things are very quiet,” she said.

“The feedback from these businesses is that a lot of them are saying this could be the straw that breaks their backs if there is an extra expense at the moment.

“That might result in them curtailing their hours and that would stop the night-time economy.”

She also told the committee she believed the need for extra policing which levy was supposed to provide was unnecessary.

“The problems with licensed premises locally are currently low. We have one or two issues and we are working with the premises to resolve them.

“We feel the tools and powers we have got are successful in dealing with these issues,” she said

She estimated the realistic district-wide maximum total for the levy would be £22,845 a year if it was applied to every premise open from midnight-6am.

But exemptions which could be given in line with government advice were likely to reduce that sum to about £14,000.

“Speaking to the police, they very much feel the amount they get from businesses would not be sufficient to resource extra policing because they have their own cutbacks,” she said.

The levy is seen by ministers as part of their commitment to reducing alcohol misuse.

It is viewed as a way to help the police’s expensive battle against booze-related crime and disorder.

It would affect 30 businesses around Bognor if it was applied from midnight-6am.

The levy collected from them would be split 70:30 per cent between the police and the district council.

But Graham Tyler, the committee’s vice-chairman, said: “I feel this piece of legislation is quite badly thought out because it is really designed for major urban areas and not to be rolled out across all of the country.”

Committee member John Holman said: “We ought to take our lead from the police.

“We know there are problems in the late night economy but, although we know 70 per cent of the levy is proposed to go to the police, we have no idea how that might work.”

The levy has to be applied across the entire district but it can affect any opening hours from midnight-6am.

Also included in the committee’s rejection is the government’s proposal of an early morning restriction order.

This would limit the sale of alcohol in an area at any time from midnight-6am.