Councillors angered by unpaid licence fees

Councillor George Turnbull
Councillor George Turnbull

Local Democracy Reporter

Forty-five businesses have so far failed to cough up the money, due since Monday 1 October 1, including 10 licensed premises in Berwickshire.

The annual fees range from £220 to £800, depending on the rateable value of the business.

Some of the establishments have ceased trading, such as the High Level Bar in Hawick, Selkirk Football Club and the Keg in Peebles, leading to them appearing to the local authority as defaulting on their payments.

Councillors, meeting as part of Scottish Borders Council’s licensing board last Friday, were incensed that so many trading establishments had not paid their dues.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor George Turnbull said: “I find this really frustrating. There’s 45 establishments here.

“I know some have ceased trading, and one or two are having business troubles, but the others I just find totally inexcusable. There’s really no excuse for these to remain unpaid, it’s ridiculous.”

Ian Tunnah, a licensing officer for the council, informed councillors: “The simple fact is that this is a list of premises who haven’t paid their fee as of October 1. They are required to pay that fee under the terms of their licence.

“If fees are left unpaid, there are two routes which can be taken. One is for our officers to serve compliance notices on these premises, or for yourselves to simply review the licences.

“Everybody gets a reminder in September. We also give everyone the chance to pay in quarterly instalments.”

Councillors unanimously agreed that the unpaid licences would be reviewed at the next meeting of the licensing board on Friday, December 14, if licence holders had still failed to pay up by then.

Councillor Turnbull added: “I’d like to know if there’s a surcharge for this, because we’re now doing extra work following up these payments.

“If you don’t tax your car, you’ve broken the law. If you’re selling alcohol, you’ve broken the law if you haven’t paid your due fees.

“I think it’s time to take a far harder stance. Now there’ll be some valid reasons, but I just think we need to take a far firmer hand in light of there being 45 names on this list.”