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By Debbie le Quesne

‘Eight million hours of care time lost to subsidising drinks industry’

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Councils could have paid for eight million hours of home care visits and filled almost three million potholes with money they have been forced to spend settling a £1.5 million monthly bill subsidising the drinks industry.

Can this be true? Yes it can and I am fuming!

The facts have benn released by the The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales and quite rightly it is calling for an end to nationally-set licensing fees as part of its Autumn Statement submission.

The Home Office has not made any progress on its commitment to introduce locally-set fees, set out in the 2011’s Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, the LGA says.

In simple terms it means that town halls remain unable to recover the actual costs of applications from pubs, nightclubs and off-licences. These include paying for site visits, public consultation, liaising with police, committee hearings and investigating and taking action on breaches.

It is costing councils almost £1.5 million a month with the current bill at £150 million since the system began in 2005.

LGA analysis reveals this money could have:

Provided 8.9 million hours of home care or 24.8 million Meals on Wheels.

Filled 2.8 million potholes or paid for one fifth of total council spending on street cleaning.

Funded the annual running costs of 520 libraries.

Paid for 8,430 care workers or 11,290 lollipop men and women.

Reported in the Care Industry Neews online magazine, Councillor Mehboob Khan, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, says: “With council budgets, on average 43 per cent less than they were, councils are having to find £20 billion worth of savings. At a time when councils need every penny for vital services, it is totally unacceptable that councils are being forced to subsidise the drinks industry to the tune of £1.5 million a month.

“With our road network crumbling and social care budgets being stretched to breaking point, this ever-rising bill would already fill millions of potholes and help councils provide more than eight million hours of home care.

“The Government must act now to reform the system so councils are able to recover the actual costs of applications from pubs, nightclubs and off-licences and not divert taxpayers’ money in such a needless way.”

Come one, Mr Cameron, this may even be an election platform worth standing on.

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