‘Booze tax’ plan for town to be tabled

Police dealing with drunks on the streets of Blackpool. Queen Street
Police dealing with drunks on the streets of Blackpool. Queen Street

Town Hall bosses are to be asked to consider forcing Blackpool bars to pay an 
extra ‘tax’ if they want to serve booze after midnight.

Tory group leader Coun Tony Williams will put forward a motion calling for a late night levy to be brought in at a full council meeting tomorrow.

The legislation could be adopted as an alternative to an Early Morning Restriction Order (EMRO) which will be considered by the Licensing Committee at a hearing starting on December 9.

Both measures are part of new powers which became available this year in order to help local authorities mitigate the impact of 24-hour alcohol
 licensing.

A late night levy would require any licensed premises having to pay an extra charge if they wished to serve alcohol between midnight and 6am.

The cash generated would then go towards paying policing and council costs.

Coun Williams’ motion calls for the council to agree “in principle to introduce a late night levy to tackle the problems of binge drinking in the resort, similar to a scheme introduced by Newcastle upon Tyne Council in November this year.”

He is asking for a detailed scheme to be set out.

Annual payments would range between £299 and £4,400 depending on set criteria and venue.

The levy charge would be split with 70 per cent going to the police, and 30 per cent going to the council, to be used to tackle crime and disorder, public safety, nuisance and street cleaning.

Coun Williams, who is opposed to the introduction of an EMRO, said: “I would rather see this introduced than an EMRO. It would cover every single premises which wants to serve alcohol after midnight, not just those in the town centre zone, and that would include off-licences which sell alcohol after midnight.”

The EMRO has triggered huge controversy, with licensees warning it could lead to the closure of some venues and unduly restrict Blackpool’s night time economy.

The plan comes a day after Lancashire Police Chief Constable Steve Finnigan welcomed the idea of an EMRO, saying it would help ease the burden on “stretched” police 
resources in the town.

Dave Daley, landlord of The Castle Pub on Central Drive, and chairman of licensees for the Unite union, said: “I think licensees in Blackpool would prefer a late night levy to an EMRO because it is less draconian. But we would want the money raised to be ring-fenced so it is spent on the night-time economy, for example for police cover or to fund CCTV.”

Craig Southall, chairman of Blackpool Pubwatch, added: “It’s a better alternative to an EMRO.

“An EMRO would be a disaster and if we were the first town to bring it in there would be more bad publicity.

“The police can also use the money raised from a late night levy on whatever they want, but this won’t send out a message to customers that we are a violent town.

“A late night levy would be more appropriate but it’s not the best solution and not particularly fair because we already pay more VAT and business rates.”

n Opinion – Page 10