East End pubs and clubs slammed with new council 'midnight booze' tax
PUBLISHED: 18:56 19 January 2017 | UPDATED: 18:57 19 January 2017
A late night tax is being brought in for premises selling booze after midnight in London's East End in a bid to stem drunkenness on the streets.
The move agreed at Tower Hamlets council last night will cost pubs and bars between £400 and £4,400 each to pay for more police on the streets.
But the move has been slammed by a major trades organisation warning it will hit business and the East End’s night-time economy badly.
The tax on top of the license fees is a blanket levy across the whole borough from Whitechapel out to Bow and the Isle of Dogs rather than just the late night problem areas like Brick Lane and is being based on property value.
“We have a late-night problem around Spitalfields and Shoreditch that can only be dealt with by a borough-wide levy,” Mayor John Biggs told last night’s council meeting. “We can’t selectively choose a geographical area.
“It might mean there are innocent boozers that cause no anti-social problems. The government would have to amend the scheme to geographically target problem areas.”
The levy hits 386 businesses across the East End, raising £350,000 for the Town Hall.
But the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers has tonight condemned the levy and warned it will hit businesses hard.
Its chief executive Kate Nicholls told the East London Advertiser in a statement: “It’s a retrograde step with a real danger that local businesses will suffer. These pubs and bars already make a big contribution in council taxes and business rates. The extra burden will undermine their ability to invest in the area.
“Local authorities need to work with pubs and treat them as assets—not cash cows.”
The levy has been passed after public consultations. Only temporary events, New Year’s Eve licensing, arts and music centres and theatres are to be except.
Labour cabinet member Shiria Khatun told the meeting: “The public was split between businesses against the scheme and residents in favour. There was 52 per cent in favour.”
That was the same narrow margin that got Brexit passed in last summer’s national referendum.
The levy got backing from all political groups at the council.
Tory Leader Peter Golds said: “It’s not excessive. We have to be seen doing something, raise money for the police to clear up the problem of anti-social behaviour.
But the licensed traders organisation which has consistently opposed Late Night levies wants voluntary measures rather than “punitive taxes”.
A public meeting with the mayor on the Late Night Levy issue is being held on February 9 at Shoreditch Church.