Islington council under fire for backing late-night levy

open late signCouncillors in north London have been challenged for backing plans for a late-night levy to charge bars, clubs, pubs and other licensed premises extra to tackle crime and nuisance.

Islington Council has become the first London borough to vote for the levy which will impose the extra fee on licensed businesses open between midnight and 6am.

There are 1,300 pubs, clubs, bars, off-licences and other licensed premises within the borough, of which nearly a third are open after midnight. The borough covers Clerkenwell, Farringdon, Finsbury, Highbury, Holloway, King’s Cross, Old Street and Tufnell Park.

However, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) questioned the effectiveness of the late-night levy, saying that the council should have explored all other voluntary options and partnerships.

ALMR strategic affairs director Kate Nicholls said: “It is very disappointing for the council to resort to the introduction of a late-night levy without first exhausting all other options.

“Last year’s crime statistics showed record low levels of crime, particularly in anti-social behaviour around licensed premises. It is a shame to see the council penalising local businesses without first exploring the various voluntary schemes that are available.”

The council has confirmed that members of local best practice schemes likely to aid in the reduction of alcohol-related crime will receive a 30% discount.

However, Kate pointed out that the new late-night levy would make late-night businesses reluctant to pay to be part of the business improvement district (BID) covering the area around Angel station and Upper Street in Islington.

“There is also concern that the introduction of such a measure may impact negatively on the funding for Angel’s Business Improvement District. There is a danger that businesses will not vote in favour of the BID for fear of paying twice.

“The council’s decision to pool revenues generated by the levy for the funding of a late-night security force also sets a dangerous precedent. There is no guarantee that money raised in Islington will have any beneficial effect on businesses or customers operating or visiting Islington”

Islington Council has agreed to exempt premises providing overnight accommodation and only serving alcohol for consumption on the premises to residents, as well as premises licensed to sell alcohol after midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Explaining its decision, Islington Council cited crime figures that showed that in 2013 there were 519 alcohol-related offences in Islington between midnight and 6am – equivalent to about 10 a week.

Councillor Paul Convery, Islington Council’s executive member for community safety, said: “Islington has one of London’s biggest night-time economies, which has a big impact on local residents.

“Crime, regulation and the clean-up leave the council and police with a large bill. The levy will help to pay for extra resources after midnight, when there is extra strain on resources.

“It’s fair for late-night premises to pay their share. Most licensed premises in Islington won’t have to pay anything, and late-night places that don’t want to pay can simply close at midnight.”

If businesses choose to close at midnight rather than pay the levy, the council will let them change their licences at no extra cost.

The levy is due to come into effect in autumn 2014, expected to be as early as September 1.

A full copy of Islington Borough Council’s planned late-night levey can be viewed here:

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