Hospitality business face a 7% jump in licensing fees but have escaped a major escalation of costs, after an independent report warned there would be a funding shortfall under the current fee structure.
The long-awaited Elton review into fees estimates there will be a £93m funding shortfall from operation of the new licensing regime in England and Wales during the first three years.
Sir Les Elton, head of the panel, recommended the Government meet £43m of the shortfall, and local authorities, many of which have gone beyond their remit adminstrating the new regimie, should plug the remaining £54m gap.
It is good news for operators fearing a significant increase in charges, many of which spent millions preparing for the licensing changes in 2005.
However, the panel also recommended an increase in premises licensing fees of 7% from 2007/08, which will bring in £3m extra annual revenue.
The proposed increase would means a high-street pub in band D would face an increase in the main application fee from £450 to £481.50, with the main annual charge paid for a premises licence rising from £320 to £342.40.
The panel also recommended more high-street pubs and bars be hit with a fee multiplier.
Currently local authorities can apply a fee multiplier to town and city-centre pubs and bars that "are exclusively or primarily in the business of selling alcohol".
However, Elton has called for the definition to be broadened to take in all pubs and clubs that "attract large amounts of enforcement and inspection activity which reflects the increased costs that go with that activity".
The review also calls for all local authorities to accept electronic licence applications, for the process to be simplified and for a review of fees again in three years.
Sir Elton said: "We believe we have arrived at a set of recommendations which we believe to be based on common sense and to offer a sensible way forward."
The Government has said it will fully consider the recommendations and publish a response shortly.
By Chris Druce