The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has called for an urgent rethink of proposals which would allow councils to set their own fees in its response to the Government’s consultation on locally set alcohol licence fees.
All the options for changing licence fees set out in the consultation would lead to dramatic increases in the cost to convenience stores, for example a small village shop could see the cost of applying for a licence increase from £100 to £624 (524% increase), or for a typical neighbourhood convenience store from £190 to £654 (244% increase). Under the same proposal a large supermarket applying for licence would see their fee increase by only 7.5% from £635 to £683.
ACS has calculated that if the Government opted to allow local authorities free reign to set their fees, the potential maximum cost impact for the sector would be in excess of £36m - a 400% increase in the current cost of licensing.
ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We urge ministers to undertake an urgent rethink of these proposals because they would impose dramatic unaffordable hikes in the cost of licensing for small and start-up businesses in particular. The reforms are based on the flawed premise that a small village shop should pay the same for its alcohol licence as a major supermarket.
“This problem is compounded by the suggestion that fees should be set by each local authority according to their own estimates. If ministers accept this proposal they will expose the convenience sector to a potential 400% increase, totaling more than £36m, in direct additional costs.
“Imposing such significant increases in the cost of obtaining or varying an alcohol licence would be a major barrier to investment and growth, especially for small businesses. We therefore urge ministers to consider an option that is more closely based on the existing fee structure, and retains the distribution of cost burdens that better reflects the different sizes of businesses in the market.”