Late night bars and clubs levy should pay for early hours cleanups

Published on Tuesday, 10 April 2012 10:49
Posted by Matthew Abbott

Late night pubs and nightclubs should be made to contribute towards the cost of cleaning up the mess caused by rowdy alcohol fuelled nights out, council leaders have said. The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the Government to ensure that its proposed new Late Night Levy for clubs and bars adequately compensates councils for keeping nightlife hotspots clean and safe.

Under the Home Office proposals, councils and police will be able to charge venues for the cost of protecting their customers and cleaning up after them.

Government is proposing that 70 per cent of the fee would go to the police.

Councils are warning that this ignores their role in maintaining visible street patrols, cleaning up streets, and working with businesses to protect customer and would leave them unable to invest in new schemes and improvements to high streets.

The LGA, which represents more than 350 local authorities in England and Wales, is calling for police and councils to be able to decide locally how to spend and share the money.

By placing restrictions on how the money from nightclubs and bars can be spend, government risks stifling the local innovation that has produced successful council schemes like employing taxi marshals, supporting street pastors and improving street lighting to reduce the risk of drunken trouble.

Councils are asking for government to give local areas the flexibility to decide how to introduce charges and decide which types of premises should be made to pay it, dependent on how much time and resource officers have to allocate to them. For instance, national proposals to exempt eight different categories of pubs, restaurants and bed and breakfast accommodation might be appropriate for some areas of the country, but not others. Local authorities already receive complaints about these types of business and should be able to charge them accordingly if they are contributing to excessive noise, nuisance and drunken behaviour.

Cllr Mehboob Khan, Chair of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

"It's entirely appropriate that bars and clubs should contribute towards the cost of cleaning up the inevitably messy aftermath of a big night out.

"The introduction of a Late Night Levy is a definite step in the right direction, but the current plans for how the money can be used risks taxpayers still being left to pick up the bill because it fails to recognise the significant contribution made by local authorities.

"The best way to tackle rowdy alcohol-fuelled trouble is to minimise the chances of it happening in the first place. Councils have led the way at this, whether it be employing taxi marshals to keep things in check as revellers make their way home in the early hours, or redesigning high streets to remove pressure points which get too crowded at closing time at the local nightclub.

"This sort of innovation could be stifled if Government persists with placing too many restrictions on how money should be spent.

"Joint work between the police and councils is crucial and it will be vital that this is continued once elected Police and Crime Commissioners take office later this year. Commissioners will have a key role in ensuring the money is distributed fairly and that money paid by bars and clubs is spent in their area. The LGA will be supporting commissioners and councils to ensure people continue to benefit from them working together."

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