SOUTHAMPTON City Council proposals to tax bars and clubs to help pay for night-time police cover and early morning clean-ups could have been predicted to be welcomed by residents and politicians eager to please residents, and given a swift thumbs down by licensees.

The attraction for the council and police is clear to see. Scarce funds in a time of economic hardship should not be used to corral drunken youngsters and wipe-up after them, especially when bars and clubs create the problem by offering cheap booze then take all of the profits.

Residents will cheer even louder when those pubs and bars and clubs protest the £5,000-a-year charge could put them out of business, however unlikely such a small cost – in the great scheme of matters – is to shut the doors for good.

More likely the venues will be forced to up prices to cover the charges, something this paper will welcome. We have highlighted recently how venues have been offering booze for as little as 80p per shot to attract customers.

As with all debates there are good intentions and unintended consequences.

The new tax, if finally imposed, will not shut down the venue and the problems caused by rowdy drinkers will not go away as residents hope.

Such a move – among the first in the country – will send a message out to those considering Southampton as a lively place to come and study and perhaps stay to boost the economy that it’s not so friendly after all. Perhaps Southampton should have waited until the pubs tax had been taken up in other cities so as not to steal the headlines.

The new tax is also poorly targeted. It does not reach out to stores that sell cheap booze to be consumed at home before a night on the tiles. Most students and bars will explain that the majority of revellers are well oiled long before they go out.

There is also the danger, remote I grant you, that legal challenges over this issue will force the council to ensure all pubs and restaurants are charged the tax, catching much quieter establishments in the net where real dangers of closure lie.

With the city council leader Simon Letts leading the campaign to keep local pubs open, and also at the forefront of introducing the penalties against bars that are successful, there are also surely accusations here of double standards.

Let’s keep the pubs I like open, and shut down the places I never go to, could be a line that begins to appear a tad hypocritical.

Finally, it is not just the ‘visiting’ student body that enjoys late night drinking.

Many of those carousing in the city centre are locals – and locals vote.

Indeed, Cllr Letts’s own party wishes to encourage more young people to vote, and although lowering the voting age to 16, as Labour wish, should not affect the drinking vote, making young people politically savvy should mean considering what is important in their world, which by and large revolves around booze, music and, well, other heady matters.

Not that I am against the drinking tax, however. But the city council should be wary if it proves successful of the temptation to extend the money-making machine to other troublesome groups that might be forced to pay a little more to clean-up the mess they leave behind.

Poopy-dog walkers perhaps, or takeaway restaurant litter-bugs, or even mouthy editors.