Proposals to enable councils to set alcohol licence fees locally could be damaging and costly for small businesses, the Association of Convenience Stores has warned.
Responding to a Home Office review of existing alcohol licencing fees, the ACS called on the government to urgently rethink the plan, which it said could allow councils to quadruple charges for licences.
The review sets out plans to allow local authorities to set fees for alcohol licencing fees, rather than them be set nationally. The ACS said the proposals would allow councils to charge blanket fees, without taking into account the size and value of the business as it currently does.
“We urge ministers to undertake an urgent rethink of these proposals because they would impose dramatic unaffordable hikes in the cost of licensing for small and start-up businesses in particular,” said CEO James Lowman.“If ministers accept this proposal they will expose the convenience sector to a potential 400% increase, totalling more than £36m, in direct additional costs.
“Imposing such significant increases in the cost of obtaining or varying an alcohol licence would be a major barrier to investment and growth, especially for small businesses.”
Instead, the ACS is urging ministers to consider an option based around the existing fee structure, which takes into account different businesses sizes by setting fees according to five “bands”. According to the structure, businesses with the lowest rateable value are charged fees of £100, while those at the upper end the scale are liable for charges of more than £600.