Call for Portsmouth pubs to face ‘trouble tax’ to pay for police

ON THE BEAT Police deal with late-night trouble in Guildhall Walk in Portsmouth
ON THE BEAT Police deal with late-night trouble in Guildhall Walk in Portsmouth
Assistant Chief Constable Scott Chilton and District Commander Superintendent Maggie Blyth. Picture: Malcolm Wells

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CALLS have been made for pubs and clubs linked to alcohol-fuelled crime to be charged increased licence fees.

City officials say late-night venues in troublespots should have to stump up the ‘trouble tax’ to help cover the cost of dealing with problems caused by alcohol.

The extra cash would go towards community safety measures in problem areas including extra policing.

And it is hoped the move would encourage venues to be more responsible to avoid having to pay the fee.

It comes as figures reveal an average 14 violent crimes are reported in Portsmouth every day – and police estimate up to 60 per cent are alcohol-related.

The cost of policing late-night drinking areas in the city was an estimated £500,000 in December alone.

Portsmouth City Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson has written to crime and policing minister Nick Herbert outlining his concerns.

He said: ‘We know that people who have late-night licences, particularly large places, tend to make their money by getting people very drunk. That has an effect.

‘It means you have got to have a lot of police working on busy evenings. You also have to have a lot of medics on duty as a lot of people end up in A&E.

‘It seems to me reasonable to say that the companies that make the profits out of getting people that drunk should pay the costs that are associated with that. It’s exactly the same idea as “the polluter pays”.’

Portsmouth Superintendent Norman Mellors says serious violent crime reports in the city have soared by 32 per cent this year.

‘We get 14 violent crimes on average per day in Portsmouth,’ Supt Mellors said.

‘Of these a significant number are alcohol-influenced. The total budget for policing Portsmouth last year was £24m. I would estimate that in December the cost of policing the night-time economy exceeded £500,000 – therefore any increases in licensing fees, especially in areas where crime is increasing, should reflect that level of expenditure.

‘To license a premises there is a fee.

‘If that premises is linked to an area where there is a significant amount of alcohol-influenced crime then should that licence cost more? The answer is yes.’

Neeta Dhorajia from Portsmouth Business Crime Reduction Partnership said: ‘PBCRP in principle does agree with businesses contributing to the need of additional services in creating and maintaining a safer night-time economy.

‘However, it is important that they are not unduly overcharged especially with the late-night levy and additional financial commitments they have to make and given the current trading climate.’

Bill Dearsley, Portsmouth City Pubwatch chairman, said: ‘No business wants to pay more money than it needs to.

‘Venues pay a lot of money in business rates and taxes and provide employment to people.

‘However everybody accepts we have a responsibility within the night-time economy.’