CLUBS, pubs and bars across Chester could be hit with a ‘late night levy’ to help police fund extra city centre patrols.
This is one option set to be considered by a task group at Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) following concerns about the pressures excess alcohol consumption is placing on health and emergency services.
It would affect any licensed premises that remains open between midnight and 6am, with 70 per cent of the revenue going to Cheshire Police and 30 per cent to the council.
A similar scheme was suggested in Liverpool last year but councillors rejected the proposals. So far seven authorities nationwide have introduced a late night levy (LNL).
CWaC’s places overview and scrutiny committee was expected to approve the formation of the Scrutiny Task Group at a meeting last night.
A report to the committee outlines a number of shocking statistics that paint a bleak picture of the toll alcohol is taking on people’s health and in fuelling violent crime in the borough.
Between February 2016 and January 2017 almost of a third of people (147 out of 511) presenting at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s A&E department following an assault had been drinking.
Over the same period, police had been forced to lock up 139 people who had been consuming alcohol before an assault took place.
The council, which now has a public health remit for the borough, has also stated that the number of adults in Cheshire West who drink and binge-drink is higher than the national average.
The report states: “There are around 2,000 alcohol related accident and emergency attendances at the Countess of Chester Hospital each year. Attendees are more likely to be male, aged 15 to 34, and seen at the weekend between the hours of mignight and 2.59am.”
It is estimated that there are about 65,000 people across Cheshire West and Chester who are “increasing or higher risk drinkers”.
According to the council report, written by Maria Byrne, head of place operations, an LNL “enables licensing authorities to raise a contribution from late-opening alcohol suppliers towards policing the night-time economy, tackling alcohol-related crime and disorder and other services connected to the management of the night-time economy.”
The levy would have to be adopted borough-wide, but the council could choose to impose an ‘early morning alcohol restriction order’ (EMRO) which can be restricted to specific streets and times.
However, no local licensing authority has yet successfully introduced an EMRO.
Plans for any levy would have to be the subject of a statutory consultation with the police and crime commissioner, chief of police, general public and affected traders.
The fee payable is calculated based on the business’s rateable value, and owners are given the option of altering their opening hours to avoid the charge.
In Liverpool, up to 800 licensed premises would have had to pay between £299 and £4,400 to offset the costs of the night-time economy.