CASH-strapped publicans and hoteliers who do not pay their business rates could have their drinks licences withdrawn by a council in the North-east of England.
Teesdale District Council says that last year it was forced to write off £27,000 in unpaid business rates, more than £20,000 of which was owed by pubs and hotels.
Determined not to see this repeated, the council has launched a campaign to have the granting of liquor licences transferred to local authority control, which would effectively give it tougher penalties against hard-up businesses.
Council treasurer Jim McKenna said: "If councils had control of drinks licences then renewals and future applications would be dependent on a business being up-to-date with its non-domestic rates.
"And this authority for one would say that any person who had not paid their business rates was not a fit person to hold a liquor licence."
The council has written to the secretary of state for the environment, John Prescott, as well as local MPs and the Local Government Association in a bid to lobby support for a change in the drinks law and an end to traditional court licensing sessions.