By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter
Nottinghamshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has been criticised for not spending more than £200,000 of cash collected from businesses in Nottingham.
The money is part of the Late-Night Levy where city centre bars and restaurants pay to help offset the cost of policing the night-time economy.
Councillors on the city’s licensing committee criticised Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry (Cons) for failing to use the money to help keep the city centre safe.
But Mrs Henry has defended the underspend saying it accumulated before she was elected in May 2021.
Nottingham City Council’s licensing committee decided to scrap the levy – paid by bars that service alcohol after midnight – on Monday, August 8.
The Labour-run authority said it was “a financial burden” on new and existing businesses and removing it would help them bounce back from the pandemic.
Bars, pubs, and clubs authorised to sell alcohol between midnight and 6am must pay the levy, which is based on the rateable value of the business.
The levy can be anything between £299 and £4,440 per year – with around 144 premises in the city boundary liable to pay.
Income from the levy is split 30:70 between Nottingham City Council and Nottinghamshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office.
The money has been spent on overtime for police officers and on the cost of nine of the council’s community protection officers.
Mrs Henry called on the council not to scrap the levy ahead of the meeting on August 8. She had “significant concerns” that the absence of the levy would “thwart” the police’s “efforts to make and keep our city centre safe.”
However, it was revealed at the licensing committee on Monday, August 8, that more than £200,000 of cash from businesses had not been spent by the police.
Police expenditure from money raised via the Late-Night Levy over the last six years was around £500,583 – excluding money yet to be paid from this financial year.
The committee heard how £288,464 had been spent – leaving £212,199 collected by businesses not spent on police services.
Cllr Audra Wynter (Lab), ward councillor for Bestwood and sitting on the licensing committee, said: “We should ask for a refund and give it back to the businesses.”
Cllr Angela Kandola (Lab), ward councillor for Berridge, added: “The police have got this money they have not spent it. We are delivering – it is our resources that are being drained. The new Police and Crime Commissioner should be held to account.”
The council also argued that the crime commissioner received grant funding of £237.2m in 2021/2022 and is expected to receive £250.2m, an additional £13 million, for the period 2022/2023. This will ensure extra officers are employed.
Cllr Audrey Dinnall (Lab), chair of the licensing committee said: “Nottinghamshire Police will receive that extra £13m of Government funding so it will not interfere with services.”
The licensing committee endorsed the scrapping of the scheme. It will now be revoked at a meeting of the full council on September 12.
Mrs Henry said the late-night levy collected in previous years had not been fully utilised and therefore commissioned an independent study on how to use it after she was elected.
She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I wanted to ensure this pot of money that was available when I came into office was spent in the right way, consulting with all relevant local partners.
“My key objective is that we have an amount of money which needs to be spent, and it is right that the money should be redistributed back into the city council area to support enhancement to community safety, based on best evidence.
“The recommendations of the study were published last month and included funding a permanent multiagency ‘safe space’, expanding CCTV coverage, taxi marshals and enhanced enforcement.”
She did not say when the money would be spent.
Speaking about the scrapping of the Late-Night Levy, East Midlands Chamber chief executive Scott Knowles said “anything that can ease the burden on companies will be hugely welcomed.”
He added: “Without measures that directly reduce costs, businesses will be forced to raise their own prices.
“The hospitality industry, which has been through a very challenging period over the past few years, is in particular need of financial support.
“Businesses would also expect that any money they have already spent on public services should be used effectively and efficiently to maintain a safe environment for their customers.”