Leeds ‘bar tax’ still on table

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Council bosses have moved a step closer to the possible introduction of a controversial ‘bar tax’ in Leeds.

Leeds City Council confirmed in April that it was considering bringing in a late-night levy that would cost licensed premises up to £4,440 a year.

Now the council’s licensing committee has set out how the scheme could operate. The committee says that, if the plan gets the green light, the levy should be imposed on premises that sell alcohol between 12.30am and 6am.

Number-crunchers estimate that it could generate £600,000 per year, with at least 70 per cent of net revenue being passed onto local police chiefs.

The council says it has been given reassurances that the police’s share of the money would be spent on preventing crime in what is described as the “night-time economy”.

Licensing chiefs have recommended that premises such as theatres, cinemas, bingo halls, country village pubs and amateur sports clubs be exempt from any levy.

They also say that venues which are eligible for small business rate relief could be charged a reduced amount.

The plan, which has previously been criticised by members of the bar and club trade, is now set to go out to consultation before a decision is made on whether to press ahead with it in its current form.

A new council report says “the late-night levy has the potential to provide a regular and predictable income”. It also confirms that the authority’s licensing committee has concluded that the scheme “may be of benefit to the district”.

The cost of policing in connection with the supply of alcohol in Leeds between midnight and 6am has been estimated at £1.4m per annum.

Speaking out earlier this year against the proposals, Leeds bar boss Terry George said: “This will be another tax that will make things difficult. We pay our rates – we already pay for policing through those rates. The night-time economy is a massive attraction for Leeds, but having another tax will close some smaller businesses.”