Fee hike is 'kick in the teeth'

09 February, 2007

Retailers feel odds stack up against them as latest licence rise announced

Drinks retailers have expressed disappointment at a proposed licence fee price hike of 7 per cent.

The independent Licensing Fees Review Panel has suggested both licence costs and annual renewal fees should increase for the three-year period from 2007/2008.

A 7 per cent rise would mean the annual fee for a band C premises could rise from £295 to £315.65 and the panel has also recommended that the fee be reviewed again in three years time.

Smaller premises where the sale of alcohol is incidental, such as florists, could actually be made exempt from paying fees if the panel's recommendations are passed.

Peter Milton, the owner of Bowers Wines & Spirits in Salcombe, Devon, said it was hard to accept such high fee increases when licences had cost so much less when issued by magistrates.

He said: "There is nothing you can do about it, but it is annoying, because you know that the cost is just going towards building an empire.

"It's just another tax on a business at the end of the day."

Lesley Colclough, manager of Bargain Booze in Dresden, Staff s, added: "Any increase in the fee is going to affect our net profit and when you're in competition with others and have to deal with things such as test ≠purchases it seems as if ≠everything's against you."

The panel said the rise would help ease the financial burden on local authorities, which have spent more on adminstration than they have received from fees.

Licensing minister Shaun Woodward said: "We based our original estimates on the best information available at the time, but always accepted that fees might have to change in light of actual experience. That is why we established the panel."

The WSTA has urged the Department for Culture, Media & Sport not to implement the price hike. Chief executive Jeremy Beadles said the news was a "kick in the teeth" for the licensed trade. He said: "It is not right that licensees are expected to pay for licensing authorities' untargeted approach to licensing enforcement."

The report also recommends making it mandatory for licensing authorities to accept applications online and to simplify the application process.

Association of Convenience Stores public affairs and communications manager, Shane Brennan, said: "We welcome the panel's recommendations to simplify the procedures for retailers and we will be pushing the DCMS to implement this."

Once ministers have made their decision on the report they will launch a public consultation to allow licensees, local authorities and the public to have their say.

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