Alcohol retailers have criticised a recommendation by the Independent Licensing Fees Review Panel to increase licensing fees by 7% in the next three years.

The decision would be a major blow to retailers, said Shane Brennan, ACS public affairs manager. "It will cost licensed businesses a significant amount over the next three years. The licensing process is already an expensive and complex one and any rise in costs will only increase the burden."

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association described the recommendation as "another kick in the teeth".

"We call on the government not to implement any rise in fee levels," said Jeremy Beadles, WSTA chief executive. "When the new regime was introduced just 18 months ago licensing costs went up enormously and now they are proposing yet another increase."

The panel said the rise would help offset a £97m overspend in implementing the licensing system by local authorities.

The report is now in the hands of licensing minister Shaun Woodward.

The final proposals will be subject to a full 12-week public consultation before any changes are made.

The ACS said it would be asking the government to lighten retailers' administrative burden to offset any increase in fees.

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