Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Pubs ... everybody's whipping boy ...

The Government “will shortly consult” on regulations for locally-set licensing fees with introduction expected in the summer, the Home Office has confirmed, as reported in the Publicans' Morning Advertiser today

Councillor Mehboob Khan, chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: 

“It’s clearly wrong that taxpayers are subsidising the drinks industry. Councils want to support good local pubs but cannot be expected to continue picking up the tab for licensing fees which are outdated and not fit for purpose."

“As well as meaning more taxpayers’ money could be spent on frontline services, a more flexible licensing system would help councils support responsible venues which enrich local communities and put pressure on those which encourage excess drinking, noise and high street mess."

Why is it always pubs, probably the most responsible and controlled environments for the consumption of alcohol pilloried by all and sundry? Where is his opprobrium for the off-trade, such as the big supermarkets, who flood the market with cheap booze and don't supervise its consumption? Take a stroll down most high streets and look at the mess that other premises licensed under the Licensing Act cause ... and I'll venture that pubs cause less mess than that generated by the plethora of late-night take-away premises ... it's certainly the case in my neighbourhood.

Here's a little more analysis:

166,000 licensed premises in UK, deficit over 6 years is £100millions so a one-off charge for the "under-payment" of costs per premises of £612. Then £102 extra per year for the next 5 years, review the situation and set new fees.

The quid pro quo? Business rate reform so that pubs are valued and rated in the same way as other retail businesses ... I know which most pubs would prefer.

Simplistic? Yes it is, but no more simplistic than the comments by Councillor Khan ... why are they limited to pubs, what about off-trade? What about the food and other premises covered by the Licensing Act? As others have pointed out what about a review of other fees local authorities have the right to impose?

It's fair enough to put right the mistake of the previous administration by setting fees too low ... or were they? Have councils just been incredibly inefficient in processing licensing applications etc? Allowing local authorities to set their own fees will reward those that are financially inefficient ... so yet another consultation process for the mandarins and politicians ... wonder how much the consultative process costs the country every year as well?


Front-Line Services?

And before I sign off on this topic ... Kirklees Council (Councillor Kahn is their leader, I believe) must be a bit strapped for cash, what with spending £25,000 making sure its 69 councillors all got equipped with i-Pads just in time for Christmas 2012 ... it's a shame that pubs will be targeted to pay for this kind of profligacy. I wonder are i-Pads for councillors part of a council's front-line service provision in the ivory-towers of Kirklees?

By the way, an ipad 2 cost £329 from the Apple Store, which, is probably the most expensive way to buy them ... so with an entire Local Authority's purchasing power at its disposal why did Kirklees pay £362 a piece? Could this be a portent of the efficient way that it and other members of the LGA will administer licensing?

Nurse! Meds! Now!

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