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Southwark plans late night levy on post-midnight alcohol sales

Pubs, bars and clubs in Southwark which serve alcohol between midnight and 6am could face extra charges of up to £4,400 a year to help meet the costs of policing and regulating the borough's late night economy.

Southwark plans late night levy on post-midnight alcohol sales
Southwark's original public notice about the proposed levy was copied and pasted from a similar notice produced by Tower Hamlets Council. A corrected version appeared in the Southwark News the following week.

If approved, the late night levy would come into force on 1 September and would affect more than 400 businesses across the borough.

Charges to venues in Southwark would range from 5.75 per week for the smallest businesses, to 85.38 for the largest businesses that primarily or exclusively serve alcohol.

The council says that revenue raised from the levy – potentially more than 400,000 a year – would be used to reduce or prevent late night alcohol‐related crime, disorder and nuisance, and improve public safety and street cleaning.

London Bridge, Borough High Street and Elephant & Castle top the league of locations in the borough where ambulance crews receive the most calls to alcohol-related incidents.

Southwark hopes to retain control of all the money raised, although it may have to share the funds with the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC).

Venues located within a business improvement district – where firms already face extra charges to fund local services – will receive a 30 per cent reduction on the late night levy.

There are three BIDs which operate wholly within Southwark (Better Bankside, Team London Bridge and The Blue Bermondsey) and two which span the Lambeth/Southwark border (WeAreWaterloo BID and South Bank BID).

Around 140 venues would be eligible for the BID discount, mostly in the Better Bankside and Team London Bridge areas.

Premises licence holders will also be able to apply to reduce their licensed hours so that they don't fall under the scope of the levy without incurring an application fee.

The proposed levy has the "full support" of Ch Supt Simon Messinger, police commander for Lambeth and Southwark.

Five London councils already have late night levies: the City of London, Camden, Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets.

Southwark copied the wording for its legal notice about the proposed levy from that used by Tower Hamlets in 2017, but unfortunately failed to find and replace all mentions of the east London borough – which meant that the council had to repeat its advert in a local newspaper for a second week.

The council's official 12-week consultation period is due to begin on 25 February, with a final decision due to be made by councillors on 17 July.

A public meeting is scheduled for Tuesday 19 March.

Last month's report by London's Night Time Commission – appointed by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan – warned councils against imposing extra charges on businesses: "We believe the levy should only ever be a last resort. Partnership should be the priority."

Geoff Strawbridge from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) said: "It is disheartening to see councils still considering the use of Late Night Levies to generate income for the local area. These levies are a blunt force tax that unfairly penalises community pubs, adding yet another financial burden to licensees' bottom lines.

"Community pubs should be encouraged to thrive and not be hit with further costs. The imposition of a levy could mean valued neighbourhood pubs closing earlier, or possibly closing down."

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