Saturday, 18 June 2005
FSB warns that licensing rules penalise small firms
Under the new legislation, businesses have to apply to their local authority for a single premises licence covering all licensable activities. Previously, there were six separate licences for alcohol, public entertainment, cinemas, theatres, late-night refreshment houses and night cafes.The FSB has written to Licensing Minister, James Purnell, to complain that the new fee structure fails to distinguish between a city centre fun pub and a bed and breakfast that makes less than a £100 a year from alcohol sales."The Government has underestimated the vast array of businesses that come under the new regime, and has made no attempt to recognise that for many of them alcohol is just a very small proportion of their total sales," said FSB policy chairman John Walker.The small business group has also called for a fee system that operates on sliding scale, based on more distinct bands of rateable values. It believes it is unfair that, under the new scheme, a business with a rateable value of under £5,000 will pay the same licence fee as a business with a rateable value of £33,000.Responding to the criticism, a spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "Applicants will pay a one off fee for now and then a subsequent annual fee. So if you are in band A for example, you'll pay a £100 application fee and a subsequent annual fee of £70.""In any case, there will be an independent review after 12 months to ensure the fees are set at the right level for businesses and local authorities," added the spokesman.The legal changes, which come into effect on 24 November, include:
- The fee charged for a premises licence will be the same however many licensable activities take place on the premise.
- Standard drinking hours will be replaced with flexible opening hours for licensed premises.
Businesses that wish to apply to convert their existing licence to a premises licences, must apply by 6 August.
- For full details of the fee structure for the new licensing regime visit www.culture.gov.uk
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