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The Social Responsibility Levy; A Step Too Far?

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The Social Responsibility Levy; A Step Too Far?

October 21
20:07 2013
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Although not yet law, the levy – which will contribute towards the cost of dealing with the adverse effects of licensed premises, such as additional policing or street cleaning – could prove to be a serious drain on resources if it does find its way onto the statute book. As yet, specific details are sketchy, but the basic premise is that the taxpayer should not be expected to continue meeting the costs of servicing the social and economic effects of alcohol misuse in towns and cities throughout Scotland. Instead, such costs would be met partially or wholly by the industry, and funded through an additional charge paid by licence holders. However, questions arise when you consider the many different types of establishments operating in this sector: Would a nightclub closing at, say, 3am, pay the same levy as a small wine merchant that closes at 10pm? How much would the charges be, and would the trade have to pass this additional cost on to the consumer? Similarly, those who hold street-trader licences for selling food, and those with late-hours-catering and public entertainment licences may also be subject to this charge, even though they may not sell alcohol. Is it right that these licence holders should be required to pay a charge towards rectifying the problems caused by alcohol abuse, especially as such traders do not usually operate late at night when most alcohol-fuelled social problems occur? Likewise, a late-hour catering licence is required for premises that sell meals or refreshments between the hours of 11.00pm and 5.00am, and these businesses will also be required to pay the levy. While these outlets doubtlessly contribute to the volume of litter produced at night, and thus should pay towards the costs of clearing up the rubbish, determining how much each should pay will not be easy. And what of the holders of public entertainment licences, including gyms, swimming pools and public fairgrounds? Will these premises also have to pay the charge? Will businesses that are managed responsibly and cause no problems for police or the public be exempt from the charges? If so, what will the criteria be for determining good behaviour in order to qualify for an exemption? Of course, all these questions cannot at this point be answered, as the proposed levy will be subject to a consultation period with the industry before it can become law. That said, there will be much to discuss and many issues to be addressed, and the trade should engage wholeheartedly in this process in the meantime. Whatever the Scottish Government’s objectives, and however laudable its intentions may be, the fact remains that this levy in its current form would impose an unbearable financial burden on the licensed trade, at a time when the sector can ill afford it.

www.todsmurray.com

This article has been edited from its original version. For the complete feature, please see Catering in Scotland magazine November/December 2010.

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As the Social Responsibility Levy (SRL) makes its way through the Scottish Parliament as part of the Alcohol Etc. (Scotland) Bill, Naomi Pryde outlines the proposal and its myriad inequities…

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