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WSTA welcomes Home Office decision to scrap locally-set licensing fees

Published:  26 February, 2015

The WSTA has welcomed the government's decision to scrap proposals for locally set licensing fees.

The Home Office had ordered a consultation on local authorities setting their own licensing fees to recover costs, which looked at setting maximum cap levels and whether different premises should be charged different amounts. Today it announced it would not change the system for the time being.

Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA said the government had listened to strong objections from its members. "The proposals would have piled on further costs for licensees already facing a tough trading environment, as well as adding further inconsistency and uncertainty to an already complex licensing system".

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds also welcomed the news. "Pubs do not enjoy any subsidy; they pay hugely into the public coffers through the taxation system, through beer and other alcohol duties, business rates, and a host of other taxes, which is why we are campaigning for more business rates reforms for pubs and a third beer duty freeze in the March Budget."

Licensing fees are intended to recover the administration costs that local authorities spend delivering the system and are currently set at a national rate.

The Home Office said fee payers - pubs, small businesses and community groups serving alcohol - had expressed concern that there was not enough evidence of the costs local government incurs in administering the licensing system. It admitted that although licensing authorities were in favour of a system with more local discretion, there was a "limited" response from local authorities on how much the license fee system cost to deliver.

Only 5% of local authorities (20 out of 350) provided evidence, which they said presented a "limited and inconsistent picture of the relationship between licensing authority costs and income".

Crime Prevention Minister Lynne Featherstone said the issue would have affected a wide range of businesses and the government needed to get it right. "This Government strongly supports the vital contribution that responsible businesses, including pubs, hotels, restaurants and community premises, make to our economy and to their communities, and we want to avoid putting undue burdens on them," she said.

Although locally-set licensing fees won't be introduced "at present", the Home Office is working with the Local Government Association (LGA) to gather evidence of licensing authorities' costs in delivering licensing functions.