Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner -  
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PCC STRIVES TO MAKE CHANGE IN LAW
Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner - Kathryn Holloway, has called for a change in the law on a Late Night Levy on pubs and clubs after local councils and business bodies in the county rejected one based on the law as it stands.

“I do understand their position as the law has been something of a blunt instrument. To charge a Late Night Levy on those who sell alcohol has to be applied across an entire borough rather than just in the area where the pubbing and clubbing culture exists.  I promised I would investigate a Late Night Levy in my Police and Crime Plan, and prior to my election as PCC.  I have kept that promise but I also said it must be fair and I agree that if it draws in tiny village pubs too - rather than just the large high street franchises and nightclubs, that does not look like fairness,” said Commissioner Holloway.

However, the PCC pointed to the large draw on police resources that pubs and clubs create, especially at this time of year, and the need to find a solution to the cost of the extra policing required as a result.  “If you go down Bedford High Street on any Friday or Saturday night after midnight until five in the morning when the last pubs and clubs turn out, you will see for yourself the extra policing that’s unavoidable to keep hundreds of revellers safe, especially now over Christmas and the New Year.

“Multiple officers will be policing the street and at least two sets of officers manning Night Time Economy Vans to deliver a fast response. I regularly visit them unannounced and am entirely certain of the need for them to be present given the crowds of people, often very much the worse the wear for drink, who need to be monitored to prevent disorder. Only football clubs create this sort of additional demand on policing and they pay for the privilege which is why I have taken action to bring about a change in the law to apply it in future only in areas where pubs and clubs dominate the neighbourhood. I’m delighted that it now looks as though the law will change,” she added.

Commissioner Holloway raised the issue of “geo-fencing” pubbing and clubbing areas, and applying the Late Night Levy only to establishments selling alcohol in these areas, with Lord Gordon Wasserman - who acts as a key HM Government point of liaison with PCCs.  The Commissioner continued: “I’m now advised that the amendment has been accepted and this change is now part of the new Police and Crime Bill, due to pass into law in 2017. This is a far fairer position. The issue then is whether the Levy is worth the costs of collection by the councils. I have, as a result, also asked for them to supply me with suggestions of ways to work together to better control the fall-out from the late night economy and contribute to the cost of policing in town centres.” 

A consultation exercise between the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and local authorities and business groups took place between 26 October 2016 and 30 November 2016. The trend of responses from councils was that they could not support a Late Night Levy with the law as it now stands. Bedford Improvement District’s CEO Christina Rowe was not in favour as she felt insufficient funds would be produced to improve town centre policing and the Luton BID pointed to work they are already doing, after discussions with the Commissioner and Deputy Chief Constable, to pay for two Police and Community Support Officers (PCSOs) in the town until Christmas.

The Commissioner negotiated with the Luton BID business organisation to fund the two PCSOs in a pilot up to Christmas which she will ask them to consider continuing in the New Year. In Bedford, the Bedford BID organised an event with the PCC to introduce its members to the possibility of releasing staff to become Special Constables. “I have had fantastic support from the Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in both towns and now want to explore what can be done to introduce more permanent support in 2017,” said the Commissioner.

In Leighton Buzzard and Houghton Regis the town councils already fund additional policing patrols specifically for their areas.

The PCC has also backed the Chief Constable in a new measure to delegate powers to council wardens in Luton Borough Council’s area to replace police in enforcing parking issues to release officers to other frontline duties in the town. Similar schemes are now being developed with both Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire Council.

“I will continue to explore every possible way the Force can be supported by councils and its other partners to strengthen late night and town centre policing and am supporting those policing plans which are now in place to prevent disorder over what I hope are, for everyone, truly fantastic Christmas and happy and safe New Year celebrations,” concluded Commissioner Holloway.