By Local Democracy Reporter Trevor Bevins
DORSET councillors have backed down from suggesting a ‘late night levy’ as part of a licensing system to help pay for policing costs.
The idea had been put forward by Lyme Regis councillor Daryl Turner, but was then withdrawn, after being told that the levy could not be applied in selective areas but would have to be across the county.
Cllr Turner told a committee meeting on Monday that the levy, effectively an extra tax for late-night bars, would be helpful in some areas of Dorset to deal with the additional policing and other costs caused by the late-night economy. He said that the idea had the support of the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill.
The idea was initially backed by Dorchester councillor Les Fry, a former police inspector, who said it would be “proportionate and appropriate” to be used in some areas.
But like Cllr Turner he withdrew his support after being told that the levy would have to be applied across the whole area.
Licensing and community safety manager John Newcombe said that the idea could be brought into play at any point, if it was felt necessary, but would have to first be the subject of a consultation exercise. He said the levy might be able to be applied only to premises which opened beyond a certain time, but could not be limited to specific areas.
He said his advice was that the levy idea was not viable at the current climate, with many licensed premises facing potential financial risk because of the pandemic.
Weymouth councillor Ryan Hope said he would not agree to the move because it would be unfair on those who opened later and who already had to bear the cost of additional security staff.
He said that the majority who went out late and caused trouble had often ‘pre-loaded’ on cheap booze at home.
“If anything you could argue it is the shops and supermarkets who are to blame, rather than the licensed premises,” he said.
Sherborne councillor Jon Andrews said he believed the county already had the means to deal with much of the problem – by the council revoking licences where there had been anti-social behaviour.
“I think the message is now getting across that we can, and will, revoke licences…we have the right to review any licence. The police can bring it to our attention or any member of the public,” he said.
The place and resources overview committee comments were made during a discussion on new, proposed, licensing and gambling laws for the county.