The Association of Convenience Stores has responded to the Home Office’s announcement of a consultation on locally set fees for drinks licences, calling for clarity on the level of the cap for cost recovery.

The consultation proposes that licensing authorities will be able to recover costs incurred through the licensing function. However, it is made clear in the consultation that any locally set fees cannot be used to raise extra revenue or help to tackle crime.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We welcome assurance from Government that there will be a cap on locally set licensing fees, and the confirmation that only costs directly incurred in administering the licensing system can be recovered through fees.

“However, the transition to locally set fees could still introduce significant cost increases for small retailers. We will be working closely with the Home Office on the level of the cap in the coming months.”

Areas covered in the consultation include:

• How fees should be set, including a review of the current fee bands, based upon rateable value;

• Whether there should be variable fees, based on factors such as premises usage (alcohol only etc), or opening times;

• What guidance is needed for local authorities to help set the fee;

• Whether there should be a single, annual fee date;

• How frequently licensing authorities should review fee levels;

• How the transition to locally set fees should be managed.

Current fee levels were set in 2005 and apply nationally. They have not been adjusted since (other than for the introduction of new fees for new processes). The Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 amended the 2003 Act to introduce a power for the Home Secretary to prescribe in regulations that in future fee levels should be set by individual licensing authorities to enable them to recover their licensing costs.