Monday, December 22, 2003
New Day, New Tax
Oops... did I say tax, I meant levy.
Nightclubs linked to persistent bad behaviour in town centres could be forced to pay part of the cost of policing and cleaning up the area.
Doncha'luv it ? 'Linked to bad behaviour' - let me guess how high that particular bar will be set. Particularly when you bear in mind that the 'bad behaviour' will presumably be recorded by the self-same Police that stand to gain from shaking-down allegedly naughty clubs.
The longer opening hours that are allowed under the Licensing Act 2003 will take effect in March 2005, just before the likely date of the next election.
While the greater freedom may please some voters, if it is accompanied by disorderly behaviour and late-night nuisance it could also backfire.
As opposed to the universal peace and brotherhood which reigns over our cities at the moment. So, if there's any violence post-March 2005, then it's all the fault of the brewers.
Mark Hastings of the British Beer and Pub Association said it contributed £15 billion to the Treasury on sales taxes alone and was already paying towards police funding.
What a total amateur, as if sane and rational arguments are going to impress this government. And he gets worse:
"The industry should not be asked to pay more," he added. "Also, if pubs start paying for the police then the local bobby will end up standing outside the Dog and Duck rather than policing areas that might have greater problems."
As if. The Filth have got better things to do than deal with the problems of actual taxpayers. They've got to hunt down motorists, grovel to PC victim groups and offer tongue baths to political hacks.
Industry leaders believe new laws in the Anti-Social Behaviour Act, which will give the police power to levy fixed-penalty notices and close down premises that routinely give rise to fights outside, are the way forward.
Well, yeah. If you think that perfectly ordinary, sane people can be driven wild by the decor inside the Dog'n'Duck, then yes, you'd better close it down. But these new proposals go completely the other way. The Dog'n'Duck will become a cash cow for the Filth - the Police will have not the slightest interest in seeing the place closed down and their revenue source cut off. In short, it's a legal version of accepting a pay-off to turn a blind eye.
This view is shared outside the Home Office. Kim Howells, the former consumer affairs minister now at transport, told a select committee inquiry into late-night entertainment: "Remember that people in this country spend £26 billion on alcohol and a lot of that goes to the Treasury.
"This is a huge employer of people - probably a minimum of half a million people in London are employed in those industries. It is just a little word of caution really. Jobs can be created but jobs can disappear as well."
Let's see, the government has a choice between the economic well-being of the country and a short-term looting frenzy. Decisions, decisions...
But the select committee was inundated by evidence from organisations complaining that the character of many inner cities was being ruined by nightclubs and drinking establishments.
Given the character of our inner-cities, I'd say ruin away. But who are these organisations anyway ? Broadly-based representative bodies ? Or six lemon-sucking, boot-faced beer Nazis, screeching and stamping their feet because they're offended by the fact there's people in this country whose recreational options don't involve the possibility of wrist cramp ?
Many fear that the dominance of youth entertainment would undermine separate plans to revive inner cities by encouraging young families to return there.
This is the type of bogus nostalgia that gives us social conservatives a bad name. When exactly was this Golden Age when mater and pater would load up picnic basket and take their kids into the city for a 2 AM supper ? The 50's (19-- or 18--) ?
The drinks industry has already resisted approaches from police in Manchester and Newcastle to pay for extra policing.
And, as a result of discovering they can't intimidate people into paying twice for a service they don't even deliver once, the Filth were forced to make massive cutbacks amongst their Lesbian Whale community liaison officer, eco-friendly counselor and slimly PR flack sections.
No, sorry, that's just wishful thinking.
Looks like I fell for some sleight of hand myself. A correspondant reminds me that the hospitality industry doesn't actually contribute £15 billion, it merely supervises the transfer of it from customers to the Treasury.
Nevertheless, not only are these measures are designed to cut down on drinking (and so tax recipts), but both the companies concerned and their staff pay tax, so it's still true to say this is a case of robbing Peter to pay Porky.