England and Wales's new alcohol licensing regime amounts to nothing more than a stealth tax, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
In a letter to licensing minister James Purnell the FSB claims neighbourhood pubs are being unfairly collared with the same high licence fees as super-pubs and large clubs.
FSB policy chairman John Walker said: "This is a stealth tax that raises additional revenue for local authorities. A business with a rateable value of under £5,000 is very different to one with a rateable value of £33,000 and yet under the new system they pay the same licence fee."
The FSB wants instead to see a genuine sliding scale for fees based on more distinct bands and measures to combat the red tape the act introduces.
Businesses whose rateable values range from £4,301 to £33,000 pay a licence application fee of £190, with an annual charge thereafter of £180.
New licensing laws come into force in England and Wales on 24 November 2005.
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