The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has responded to a consultation on the introduction of a late night levy in Hackney, London, arguing that it would be, in effect, a direct tax on local businesses. It says the council should, instead, look to pursue a business improvement district (BID) scheme.
The BBPA’s position is supported by a recent report from the House of Lords committee on licensing, which looked at all aspects of licensing in detail, and concluded that “[The Late Night Levy has] failed to reach its objectives and should be abolished”.
Hackney boasts a lively, vibrant night-time atmosphere, which contributes £71 million to the local economy, housing seven breweries and more than 130 pubs.
The introduction of a levy is a threat, the BBPA argues, to these businesses and jobs, many of which are small and independent, positively shaping and influencing Hackney’s night-time environment.
In their response, the BBPA instead advocates the introduction of a Business Improvement District, of which there are now over 250 established across the country, and which would offer a more targeted and business-led reallocation of any funds raised.
Pubs in Hackney are already having to contend with recent rises in beer duty, adding 2p onto every pint, and a business rates system that is sorely in need of reform, says the BBPA. On average, pubs in Hackney have seen their business rates bill increase by 6.6%, or £2.5 million in total.
The BBPA has responded to all late night levy consultations since power to introduce them was granted to councils in 2012, and, in association with the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), has recently produced a report into alternative schemes to the levy.
The BBPA recently welcomed Cheltenham Borough Council’s decision to abolish a late night levy in favour of a BID.
BBPA chief executive, Brigid Simmonds, said: “The introduction of a late night levy is effectively hitting local businesses with an indiscriminate tax, which is particularly unfair on pubs.
“Our response has made clear the BBPA’s view that, in contrast to a levy, a BID is an example of effective partnership working, which will engage local businesses to help improve the local economy.
“Where introduced, late night levies have proved to be a damaging new tax on local businesses. Few local authorities have taken them up, and as recently as last week, the House of Lords Committee on Licensing recommended that they be abolished entirely.”
She added: “The BBPA will continue to campaign against late night levies on behalf of the industry, instead encouraging local authorities to consider the wide range of local partnership options that are available which provide real solutions to local issues.”