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Canterbury councillors in call to charge pubs and clubs late-night levy to clean up streets

Bars and clubs in Canterbury should be charged a late-night levy to pay for dealing with the effects of alcohol-related crime and disorder, according to councillors.

Under the scheme, venues that sell alcohol past midnight would be forced to pay between £299 and £4,440 a year, depending on the rateable value of the business.

The cash - 70% of which would go to the police and 30% to the city council - would be used to pay for extra patrols, marshalling and street cleaning.

A proposed late-night levy would help pay for street cleaning
A proposed late-night levy would help pay for street cleaning

If adopted, the city would become the first place in Kent - and only the second in the country - to introduce the charge.

It has been suggested by Barton city councillor Paula Vickers, who says residents are fed up with noise, public urination and vandalism caused by revellers pouring out of city bars and clubs in the early hours.

Cllr Vickers put forward the proposal at a meeting of the Canterbury Area Member Panel last night, which was unanimously supported by her fellow councillors.

Canterbury councillor Paula Vickers
Canterbury councillor Paula Vickers

She said: "The idea is to give more money to the police so they can patrol the streets and make the area safer, and the council so they can keep public conveniences open for longer and have more street cleaning.

"There's a very vibrant late-night economy, which is fantastic, but it does come at a cost."

"I don't think it's fair that local residents should pick up that cost.

"I think the businesses that are making a profit selling alcohol after midnight should contribute to keeping the streets clean and safe."

It is estimated the scheme would generate a total of £50,000 in Canterbury each year.

Charles Smythe, who runs four pubs in the city - the Seven Stars, the Black Griffin, the Old City and Thomas Becket - with later licences, said he feared nightspots would be penalised.

He said that while business is good for him, other pubs in the city could close if they are forced to pay a levy on top of already-crippling business rates, VAT and corporation tax.

The 44-year-old said: "Canterbury has lost so many pubs over the years already.

"Yes, we do make money out of the students. But why should we be penalised for running a successful business?

"Councillors are forgetting that we also contribute to the local economy. We employ local people and use local produce."

Referring to concerns about anti-social behaviour, Mr Smythe said: "It's always been this way. When I was at university, students were just as noisy.

"We rarely have problems because my staff and management are properly trained, and we never serve drunk people.

"Maybe the council should look at where the problem pubs are, and target them instead."

The Home Office introduced the new powers for councils this month and the scheme has already been introduced in Newcastle.

Councillors voted to monitor how successful it is there, before deciding whether or not to adopt it in Canterbury.

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