Locally set fees - Home Office consultation

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The Home Office has launched a public consultation on the move from centrally-set to locally-set fees under the Licensing Act 2003.

Under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 the Home Secretary can prescribe by regulations that fee levels should be set by individual licensing authorities on a cost recovery basis.

The Home Office's Consultation seeks views, primarily from licensing authorities and fee paying licensees, on the maximum amounts that can be charged, whether and under what circumstances different amounts should be charged to different types of premises and the mechanisms that will reassure fee-payers that the fees are being set transparently and at cost.

It also asks whether there should be a single national payment date for annual fees.

There has been a previous consultation on licensing fees which came to nothing.  Our view is that this consultation will lead to change and an increase in the annual fees. It is impossible however, to gauge how much that increase might be.

A recent High Court case regarding sexual entertainment licences in Westminster made it clear the fee for a licence is the cost of administering the licensing function and the inclusion of a contribution to the cost of enforcement action by the Local Authority would not be lawful. 

That is interesting because now the fees for licences are based on the rateable values of premises on a sliding scale – but the administration cost for dealing with a licence application for a premises valued at £4000 is the same as one valued at £400 000!

The single national payment date will be a very welcome move indeed however as it will simplify the administration of those payments. 

There are to be a number of regional events to encourage debate on the issues, presently planned in York, Manchester, Bristol and London.