Keeping Camden’s streets and its residents, businesses, and visitors safe has to be a priority for the borough. As Camden Conservatives’ Community Safety spokesperson, it’s certainly one of mine.
Camden Council voted on Monday on whether to impose a “Late Night Levy“: a new tax on all businesses that serve alcohol past midnight in Camden, with some of the proceeds being kept by Camden.
As a supporter of localism, I back Camden having the power to introduce a levy. But as a supporter of good government in Camden, I voted against introducing one and here’s why.
Conservatives back hiring more police officers through Boris Johnson’s ‘Buy One Get One Free’ scheme: doubling the funding that the council puts into policing. Sadly, Labour voted down Camden Conservatives’ proposal to use it to benefit the whole borough in March.
Camden Town’s BID – Camden Town Unlimited – is already benefiting from this scheme, so every £1 of funding gets £2 of local police presence. But under the Late Night Levy, Camden is entitled to just one-seventh as much: keeping a derisory 30p of each £1.
Even if every penny of the levy were spent in Camden, we’d still be getting half as many police as we could under the plan Labour rejected.
Moreover, with Business Rates, which central government keeps most of, being devolved to local authorities, it makes ever less sense. Camden businessees pay £446m in Business Rates: more than Liverpool, Newcastle, and Brighton & Hove combined. Only the City of Westminster and the City of London pay more.
Imposing an additional tax on the sector would drive business away to places like Westminster, which rejected the Late Night Levy. Contrary to claims by Labour’s Cabinet member proposing the levy, not all venues in Camden are “thriving” – some are seriously struggling and this will make it a lot harder for them.
Representatives from the Phoenix Artist Club and JD Wetherspoon told the Council they may have to close their premises in Camden or close earlier. By driving away business in our most profitable sector, this will kill hundreds of local jobs and reduce the Business Rates revenue that we keep.
When Rates revenue out-strips the revenue raised by this tax a THOUSAND times over, it just doesn’t make any sense. Indeed, it is likely to leave the borough with fewer resources to keep out streets safe and clean, not more.
If Labour wanted to keep our streets safe, they would have rejected the Late Night Levy and used Boris’s match funding scheme instead. By not doing that, Labour are throwing away millions of pounds and making our streets less safe.
Update: The Camden New Journal has reported on this, while the Standard has warned that it could kill the borough’s nightlife. Thanks, Labour.
For more about my campaign to support local businesses, click here.