Retailers are up in arms over rumours that local authorities are planning to push the new licensing fees even higher.
Many councils say that administration costs are higher than expected after a flood of late applications. And some, such as members of the Association of London Government, including Westminster Council, want discretionary powers to set fees.
“They are asking for the extra cash to come out of the fee structure,” said one retail source, adding that he feared councils would push through rises in licence fees unnoticed. “Flagging up rises is one thing. But if local authorities just restructure their accounts, retailers have to resist.”
Another retail representative said: “Pubs and clubs should pay any extra increases. They are run by big groups that can bear the costs far more easily than smaller retailers can.”
The British Retail Consortium and Association of Convenience Stores have made submissions to the licensing fees panel calling for clear, ongoing consultation.
An interim report is due next month and a full verdict on the fee structure in late 2006.