Cheltenham Borough Council has abandoned its Late Night Levy in favour of the existing Business Improvement District (BID), in a ground-breaking move.
Cheltenham is believed to the first local council ever to drop the Levy. The decision follows a consultation launched by the council levy last September. It was first introduced in April 2014 with businesses that supplied alcohol between midnight and 6am, charged an annual fee of between £229 and £4,400.
The fee was to go towards paying for the extra policing and services late night premises generate, with 70% paid to the Gloucestershire police and crime commissioner and 30% to the council. A BID is used to develop projects which will benefit businesses in the local area.
In its consultation, the council said it had a responsibility to ensure businesses are not unduly burdened by two levies. 'The significant majority of licensed premises paying the levy are also subject to the BID levy which means they are disproportionately affected,' it said. 'The council therefore needs to take a view on this particularly in light of its corporate priorities to sustain and grow Cheltenham's economic and cultural vitality.'
The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) called upon other local authorities to follow its lead.
Chief executive Kate Nicholls said: 'The ALMR has repeatedly stated that, if local authorities are concerned with tackling perceived areas of alcohol-related harm and disorder, measures to work with, not against, the sector are far more helpful.
'Late night levies are indiscriminate and heap financial pressure onto venues that are already contributing financially to the success of their areas. The levy is blunt tool that penalises hardworking businesses, threatens stability and investment and is unlikely to effectively tackle any issues that a council may have. It is very encouraging to see the council sees sense and abandons a measure that is potentially very harmful to local businesses.'
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: 'Small businesses like pubs contribute to the levy, but the funds collected are not reinvested to tackle the particular problems that these small businesses face. We will continue to oppose late night levies, campaigning against them wherever they are proposed.'
The levy is due to be removed from 1 April.