If you want safe streets in Cheltenham - bars will have to pay for it
CLUBS and bars in Cheltenham could be taxed to help pay to keep the streets safe at night.
Venues wanting to stay open past midnight would be subject to a levy under the plans.
Money collected would be split, with 30 per cent going to Cheltenham Borough Council for crime reduction and cleaning up after drinkers. The remaining 70 per cent would go to Gloucestershire police.
It could see nightclubs having to pay up to £4,400 a year, with the amount of cash calculated using business rates-style bands. Not taking into account possible business rate relief, some clubs already pay more than £10,000 a year and this levy would be on top of this.
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The plan has received support from many councillors. Conservative members have urged the borough to be "proactive" in introducing the levy. In response, the council said steps had been taken to prepare for "potentially introducing" it.
Jimmy Elias, operations director for the Fever group, which runs a number of clubs in Cheltenham, supported it.
He said: "Is the night-time levy necessary? Well it has not been necessary for all of my years in the industry, but if the police need more money to spend on getting officers out on the streets to keep people safe then, yes, it is necessary.
"One thing about this town is that the police have complete control of it and that is obviously a positive thing."
Mr Elias, who is also chairman of the town's Nightsafe, was not convinced it would impact on larger clubs.
He said: "Maybe some of the smaller bars which currently close at 12.30am may decide to shut at midnight to avoid it.
"But the figures are still too low. In some ways, I would prefer to see a bigger charge because it would help separate the nightclub trade from the pub and bar trade."
The regulation to allow councils to introduce a levy was brought in on October 31.
It does stipulate how police spend their share of the cash.
Councillor Steve Jordan (All Saints, LD), council leader said it would help the council and the police recoup some of the costs of "looking after" the night-time economy from the people who benefited from it.
He said: "We have a thriving night-time economy and that is good for the town but there are accompanying costs and it is appropriate that the people involved pay towards the costs.
"It is about sharing the cost of looking after the night-time economy. We are already spending the money to do that to make sure the night-time economy works out positively and clearly that work has a cost."
Street Pastors are already out and about in the town at night and police special constables patrol on pay days as well.
A Gloucestershire police spokeswoman said: "The decision is a matter for the council, however, they have consulted with us on the issue and we will continue supporting them in their decision-making process by providing any information we can about crimes associated with the night-time economy."