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Controversial late night levy splits opinion in Southampton
10:00am Sunday 3rd November 2013 in News
IT is the controversial move to charge Southampton’s late night bars – to help pay for policing the city’s drunken revellers.
While many have welcomed plans to place new levies on late opening pubs and clubs, licence holders have reacted with fury to the suggestion.
Venues in Southampton’s night-spots could face fees of up to £4,440 a year to help free up police for crime fighting elsewhere in the city.
Early estimates suggest the scheme could raise around £200,000 a year with 70 per cent going to the police and 30 per cent going to the council to pay for the likes of taxi marshals and the ICE bus – which helps people in need in the city centre on Saturday nights.
Residents’ groups have welcomed the move, saying bars will be making a contribution to help keep their neighbourhoods safe and drive down antisocial behaviour.
But angry bar owners have vowed to fight the scheme, claiming they are being unfairly punished for drink-related problems.
As reported by the Daily Echo, council bosses announced the plan in front of more than 100 people at a community safety meeting in Southampton.
The late-night levy was made possible as part of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 unveiled by the Government.
Similar proposals are being examined in York and Plymouth and Southampton City Councillors are due to discuss the matter in November before it goes out for full consultation.
Today, we hear from two opposing sides of the argument as debate rages over whether bars should face charges ranging from £299 at the lower end to more than £4,000 for larger venues.
Lorraine Barter from the Polygon-based group Residents Action and Richard Gilbert, who owns the late-night venue Cafe Parfait in Above Bar Street, both have their say.
FOR: Lorraine Barter
“HAVING only a regular number of on-street police dealing with alcohol-related nuisance in the city centre, the Northern Hub of Bedford Place and London Road and along Bevois Valley undermines public safety.
“Not only that of bar patrons, but others out and about at night, and even those staying indoors who must receive a lower level of service from police due to their concentration on ‘Clubland’.
“Drunken revellers returning home, particularly to student-dominated areas, damage council street furniture, remove and take home traffic warning signs, road repair barriers and portable traffic lights putting lives at risk.
“Side roads not monitored by police suffer damage to cars and gardens, vomit and urine and all night noise and mayhem, which has been recorded in diaries and on CCTV for the past 15 years.
“This cannot be dealt with at the time by police already dealing with bar and club-related arrests and taking statements.
“The late-night levy would in a small way compensate at least the council, plus the added feeling of at least some security and help from the police during the night may prevent even more longterm residents moving out of the areas situated around the bars and clubs.
“It is sadly ironic that in the worst areas for night-time mayhem, the residents associations have folded as people flee alcohol-related night crime and antisocial behaviour.”
AGAINST: Richard Gilbert
“I HAVE been working in the licensed trade for ten years now and times are as bad if not worse than ever.
“We may well be steadily rising out of a recession, but what many members of the public don’t realise is that the clubs and bars in the city rely very heavily on student trade from the two universities.
“In recent years a student’s disposable income has been crippled by tuition fees that in the past five years have risen astronomically.
“This has meant bars have had to slash prices to encourage them into town to ensure our staff have hours to work and the clubs are open.
“Many nights we open for barely any if not zero profit.
Outsiders think this is a greatly profitable trade. But coming from the owner of what is considered one of the most successful premises, I can assure that this is far from the case.
“The late-night levy can cost clubs up to £4,440 per year and ultimately people think we should pay it for getting people drunk.
“I can assure everyone there is only one type of business that is getting people drunk. That is the ‘off trade’ – be it the supermarkets or convenience stores.
“All we are, most of the time, is underpaid entertainmentproviding babysitters. If any sort of levy is to be paid towards the funding of the late-night economy, it should be the profitable off trade that should pay it. Not the on trade.”
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