Crucial Redbridge Council vote on controversial ‘Late Night Levy’ delayed due to administrative error

Redbridge Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears

Redbridge Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Plans for a controversial Late Night Levy which would see Redbridge businesses selling alcohol after midnight charged to help pay for enforcement operations have been put on hold – because councillors were given the wrong information before a crucial vote.

Assembled councillors had been preparing to discuss the plans, which would see businesses selling alcohol between the hours of 12.01am and 6am charged as much as £4,400 a year to help fund policing and clean up operations, at the full council meeting on Thursday, January 16.

But, due to an administrative oversight, the report that had been submitted to councillors for approval contained a recommendation that businesses inside the Ilford Business Improvement District (BID) be exempt from the new charge.

That was in direct conflict with a motion passed by the council's licensing committee at an extraordinary meeting on the planned Late Night Levy held on January 9.

In that meeting, Labour councillor Anne Sachs had said: "I do have a disquiet about the exempting in Ilford because I think it will result in a perception of unfairness from others who have to pay.

"I think there will be a real outcry of unfairness from some quarters."

Other councillors present had also argued it was unfair to exempt businesses in Ilford, as they would almost certainly benefit from the extra measures paid for by funds raised from the levy.

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The fact that the incorrect recommendations had been included in the report sent out to councillors ahead of Thursday night's meeting - and only replaced with the correct report at midday on Wednesday - led Conservative councillor Paul Canal to call for the matter to be put back.

The Bridge ward councillor told the assembled members: "Can I make a point of order, Mr Mayor?

"Under access to information laws we are required to table information about the prepared motions in advance.

"The papers that were tabled said the BID would be excluded from the levy, and then at midday yesterday a paper was tabled saying it was to be included.

"That, sir, in my view, is a fundamental change and I think in view of that change the report should be withdrawn until a future council meeting, and I seek guidance from officers, sir."

After a short interval in which the meeting's legal adviser conversed with the borough's chief executive Andy Donald, it was decided to defer the matter to the borough's next full council meeting.

Should the Late Night Levy be approved, it would be the least profitable levy of that kind ever introduced in England, with council officers projecting it would raise around £80,000.

Concerns about the impact of Late Night Levy schemes on small businesses across the UK have previously been raised by a cross-party House of Lords select committee, while the Mayor of London's Night Czar Amy Lame has also said she remains unconvinced they work.

But a public consultation has also found that 74pc of Redbridge residents are in favour of it.

Speaking of the proposals for the levy previously, council leader Cllr Jas Athwal has 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 to 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."

It is now due to be discussed and voted upon at the borough's next full council meeting on Thursday, February 27.