Redbridge Council’s controversial “late night levy” on night-time alcohol sales has been delayed yet again.

If introduced, businesses that sell alcohol between midnight and 6am would have to pay an extra charge, ranging from £299 to £4,440, on top of their licence fee.

The council estimates it would generate £80,000 a year but cost £35,000 to enforce, leaving a net total of £45,000 to fund late-night policing and clean-up.

It confirmed the plans, originally meant to be introduced in January, have been pushed back but remain an option “at any point in the future”.

Speaking at a licensing meeting on September 2, Cllr Linda Huggett (Con leader, Monkhams) said she was pleased the council was not going ahead with the levy.

She said: “Especially in view of what’s happening with the coronavirus, that would probably have sounded the death knell for a lot of small businesses in the borough.”

Residents were surveyed on the plans in the summer of last year and three quarters of those who responded approved.

Council officers have estimated that almost a third of affected businesses would change their hours to avoid paying the fee.

Regarding the decision to delay, a spokesperson said: “We realise it has been an extremely tough time for local businesses and that is why we’ve provided a massive range of support during the Covid-19 pandemic to help them survive and stay afloat.

“With that in mind, a decision has been taken to defer the late-night levy.

“The option remains to introduce the levy at any point in the future, ideally when the economic landscape is less challenging for the local business community.”

The levy was meant to be voted on at a meeting of the full council on January 16, after being approved by the licensing committee a week prior.

However, the report prepared for the full council incorrectly listed the recommendations from the committee, a mistake only corrected the day before the meeting.

A decision on the levy was therefore postponed to give councillors enough time to consider the recommendations. The proposal was not discussed at the February cabinet meeting.

Speaking in January, council leader Jas Athwal said the proposal was “fantastic news for local people”.

He said: “The levy will ensure Redbridge continues to enjoy a vibrant night-time economy, while preventing antisocial behaviour and keeping our streets safe.

“Whilst most premises and their customers are responsible, there is an undeniable impact associated with the late-night sale of alcohol, and its effect on anti-social behaviour, as well as the cleanliness of our streets.

“It is only right that those businesses, which are selling alcohol during these times, are helping to fund the costs of addressing these issues. We expect there to be benefits to all involved from having a safer, cleaner environment.”