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Fees under Licensing Act 2003

Volume 593: debated on Thursday 26 February 2015

This Government strongly support the vital contribution that responsible businesses, including local pubs, hotels, restaurants and community premises make to our economy and to their communities.

We are committed to freeing up local communities to tackle alcohol-fuelled harms and took swift action in 2011 to overhaul the Licensing Act 2003 to make it easier for licensing authorities and the police to deal with problem premises.

Through public consultation, the Government have listened to the concerns of businesses and community groups and decided not to introduce locally set licensing fees at this time.

The consultation focused on the proposed regime for locally set fees under the 2003 Act. The proposals included the proposed caps on each fee and whether or not fee levels should vary for different kinds of premises or should be the same for all premises. There were 681 responses to the consultation. Around a quarter of the responses were from local government and almost all of the remainder were from fee payers, such as individuals and small businesses in the licensed trade and representatives of community and village halls. Fee payers were strongly opposed to locally set fees and concerned that fees would rise significantly without justification. Many were particularly critical of the evidence base.

Alongside the public consultation, the Government sought evidence from local government about licensing costs. The importance of this cost survey was emphasised by the Government in the ministerial foreword and at consultation events, which were well attended by representatives of licensing authorities. However, only 20 of the 350 licensing authorities responded to the request for information about their costs. This followed a similar, pre-consultation exercise to which only 17 authorities provided full responses. The evidence presents a limited and contradictory picture of the relationship between licensing authority costs and income. The insufficient evidence means that the Government are not in a position to determine the details of the proposed new fees regime or predict its consequences with confidence.

Therefore, having carefully considered the concerns of the licensed trade and the evidence provided by local government, the Government have decided not to proceed with the implementation of locally set fees. Instead, we will invite the Local Government Association to provide better evidence of licensing authorities’ costs.

As well as locally set fees, the consultation sought views on whether there should be a single payment date for annual fees, which are currently payable on the anniversary of the day the licence was granted. The majority of both fee payers and local government opposed this change. The Government have listened to their views and decided to consider further an alternative approach, proposed during the consultation events, under which licence holders can nominate their own payment date, if they wish, by notifying the relevant licensing authority, rather than introducing a universal date. This change will particularly benefit businesses that hold multiple licences, such as a chain of pubs, without imposing unnecessary change on small businesses and community premises.

Copies of the Government’s response to the consultation, including the details of 2003 Act, and a breakdown of consultation responses, will be placed in the Library of the House and published on the gov.uk website: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/locally-set-licensing-fees

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