John Gaunt & Partners authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority - SRA No. 173393.
Solicitors of England & Wales
© John Gaunt & Partners 2013. All rights reserved worldwide.
Premises Licence Suspension for non payment of fees23 March 2012
With effect from 25 April 2012, Licensing Authorities in England and Wales must suspend the premises licence for non-payment of annual fees. (In Scotland, this power already exists).
This suspension does not apply if either
- failure to pay the fee was because of an administrative error (whether made by the holder, the authority or anyone else); or
- before or at the due date the holder notified the authority in writing that the holder disputed liability for or the amount of the fee
- and the grace period for payment of the fee has not expired (21 days).
On the basis of current local authority practices, numerous problems may arise. A demand by Licensing Authorities for annual fees (or, potentially, for multipliers) outside the grace period of 21 days will not entitle the Licence Holder to rely on either the administrative error or to dispute the fee to prevent the suspension. Similarly, there are numerous examples of Licensing Authorities demanding fees where these have actually already been paid - again, demands outside the 21 days do not entitle the Premises Licensee to dispute the fee and avoid suspension.
Notices of Suspension are given to the Premises Licence Holder and must be at least 2 working days after the day the Licensing Authority "gives the notices". However, there no definition as to how the Local Authority may give that notice and the method of service. This may lead to issues and the premises may not become aware of the position. It is possible that Licensing Authorities may choose to give that notice in any invoice procedure in advance of the due date and so the licence may be automatically suspended on non-payment.
The suspension ends on the receipt day of the fee.
It is to be hoped that within the spirit of the legislation, Licensing Authorities will determine that this requirement to suspend Licences is in relation to deliberate non-payment of annual fees and that they will interpret the legislation accordingly, seeking to work with Premises Licence Holders and recognising the vagaries and occasional lack of reliability of their own records and systems.