Problem pub tax put on ice till 2015

The levy was to pay for issues inflamed by booze
The levy was to pay for issues inflamed by booze
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Plans to impose a tax on problem pubs in Edinburgh have been put on hold until at least 2015.

Responsibility for setting how much to charge would have rested with individual licensing boards, with Edinburgh’s proposing that problem pubs would pay double the amount of well-run pubs.

But government ministers have now confirmed that the legislation has been put on ice and will not now be looked at again for at least three years, while they instead proceed with plans for a “public health supplement” on supermarkets that sell alcohol and tobacco.

The news has been welcomed by pub operators and licensing leaders in the Capital.

Patrick Browne, chief executive of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, said: “We give this a cautious welcome in that it gives clarity in terms of operating costs, but the issue is that it is still there for the future.”

Regarding the Edinburgh board’s position of offering a “good practice” discount to pubs that attract the least complaints, he said: “We opposed it. Under the social responsibility proposals, everybody would pay something. You could be a good operator, but you still have to pay something and that was totally unfair.”

Lee Cargill, manager of the The Globe Bar in Niddry Street, said: “The plans aPlans to impose a tax on problem pubs in Edinburgh have been put on hold until at least 2015.

The Scottish Government had been preparing to bring in a controversial “social responsibility levy”, where all businesses that sell alcohol pay a fee towards the cost of tackling crime, improving health and preventing public nuisance.

Responsibility for setting how much to charge would have rested with individual licensing boards, with Edinburgh’s proposing that problem pubs would pay double the amount of well-run pubs.

But government ministers have now confirmed that the legislation has been put on ice and will not now be looked at again for at least three years, while they instead proceed with plans for a “public health supplement” on supermarkets that sell alcohol and tobacco.

The news has been welcomed by pub operators and licensing leaders in the Capital.

Patrick Browne, chief executive of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, said: “We give this a cautious welcome in that it gives clarity in terms of operating costs, but the issue is that it is still there for the future.”

Regarding the Edinburgh board’s position of offering a “good practice” discount to pubs that attract the least complaints, he said: “We opposed it. Under the social responsibility proposals, everybody would pay something. You could be a good operator, but you still have to pay something and that was totally unfair.”

Lee Cargill, manager of the The Globe Bar in Niddry Street, said: “The plans are absolutely ridiculous.

“I don’t see how it could be justified – we pay NI, which goes to the NHS already, so why should there be another levy on top of that?

“With pubs that attract trouble, that is an issue for the police to tackle.”

Councillor Marjorie Thomas, convener of the Edinburgh Licensing Board, said: “We have minimum pricing coming in, which is another issue, and the social responsibility levy was always going to be difficult to impose. I think we should take one thing at a time and we do not want to push too many things through.

“We are looking closely at over-provision at the moment and I welcome a moratorium on the social responsibility levy. Once we see how minimum pricing and the supermarket scheme works we can push any action.”

The public health supplement being progressed instead will only be paid by large retail properties with a rateable value of more than £300,000.

John Loudon, convener of the Edinburgh Licensing Forum, said: “I can safely say this will be welcomed because there was a lot of concern about the social responsibility levy.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “In addition to our plans for minimum unit pricing, we have invested a record £155 million in tackling alcohol misuse since 2008.

“The Scottish Government has always been clear that we will not consider introducing a social responsibility levy until or unless the economic conditions are right.”re absolutely ridiculous.

“I don’t see how it could be justified – we pay NI, which goes to the NHS already, so why should there be another levy on top of that?

“With pubs that attract trouble, that is an issue for the police to tackle.”

Councillor Marjorie Thomas, convener of the Edinburgh Licensing Board, said: “We have minimum pricing coming in, which is another issue, and the social responsibility levy was always going to be difficult to impose. I think we should take one thing at a time and we do not want to push too many things through.

“We are looking closely at over-provision at the moment and I welcome a moratorium on the social responsibility levy. Once we see how minimum pricing and the supermarket scheme works we can push any action.”

The public health supplement being progressed instead will only be paid by large retail properties with a rateable value of more than £300,000.

John Loudon, convener of the Edinburgh Licensing Forum, said: “I can safely say this will be welcomed because there was a lot of concern about the social responsibility levy.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “In addition to our plans for minimum unit pricing, we have invested a record £155 million in tackling alcohol misuse since 2008.

“The Scottish Government has always been clear that we will not consider introducing a social responsibility levy until or unless the economic conditions are right.”