Licensing Committee rejects late night levy and Early Morning Restriction Order
A meeting of Woking Borough Council’s Licensing Committee last week decided against introducing an additional charge on licensed premises in the borough which serve alcohol after midnight.
Under powers granted to local authorities under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, councils have the right to impose a charge, known as a late night levy, on pubs and nightclubs that operate into the early hours of the morning, with any money collected being split with the police and used to cover the costs associated with late night drinking.
The council also has the power to issue an Early Morning Restriction Order, which would apply retrospectively to all licensed premises and prohibit alcohol sales after a chosen hour.
The Licensing Committee has voted to recommend to the Executive that neither a late night levy nor an Early Morning Restriction Order are introduced in Woking at present. This is because of the relatively small number of establishments likely to be affected, and the fact that the sums raised would be small. Any money collected needs to be split with 70% going to Surrey Police and only 30% going to the council. Most councillors agreed that the imposition of a late night levy would be an extra tax on the pub trade at a time when it is already struggling in the current economic climate. Concerns were also raised that declaring an Early Morning Restriction Order would be arbitrary, suggest there is a problem with out of control binge drinking and anti-social behaviour in Woking, and drive patrons to neighbouring boroughs such as Guildford.
Out of more than three hundred councils in the country, only ten are considering a late night levy so it was agreed no action would be taken at present, and that it would be best to monitor the situation in the town centre and learn from the experience of other councils before revisiting the use of these powers in the future.