Rethink over late night levy to pay for Leeds policing

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PROPOSALS for a late night levy in Leeds to help pay for alcohol-related policing look set to be scrapped after an internal council watchdog found flaws in the plan and branded it a “blunt instrument”.

Under the plans, any licensed premises selling or supplying alcohol between 12.30am and 6am throughout Leeds would have had to pay between £299 and £4,440 a year, depending on the premises’ rateable value.

The plans could have raked in £1m a year for the council.

However, the council’s resources scrutiny board has recommended a rethink because it says it would, as it stands, impact unfairly on businesses outside the city centre.

In its report, the panel concluded: “The legislation and guidance around the late night levy is a blunt instrument.

“It is inflexible and inherently unfair, resulting in many ‘non-polluters’ paying what is essentially an additional business tax.”

The proposal is now set to be handed back to the council’s licensing committee, with an alternative scheme focused on the city centre being pushed forward instead.

However, the late night levy could still be revisited at a later date if the alternative does not work out.

A new report to the council’s executive board says that a new business improvement district for the city centre would be “better suited to the needs of the city” because it includes “initiative to manage and support the night time economy”.

A Leeds Council spokesman said: “The council has been considering the possible introduction of a late night levy to help fund additional services and initiatives in support of the night time economy.

“Scrutiny board have advised that they do not think introducing a night time levy at this time is the best way forward.

“They have recommended that the council continues to develop voluntary initiatives and supports work to introduce a city centre business improvement district, both of which should provide additional investment in services supporting the night time economy.”

The power to impose a late night levy was conferred on councils under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. Individual authorities can use their discretion to offer reductions if a premises is part of a recognised scheme, as well as being able to exempt some buildings like community centres or theatres.