July 23 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Private security guards could patrol Islington’s streets at night if a radical new alcohol tax is approved this week.
The uniformed wardens would hit hotspots known for alcohol-fuelled violence – such as Upper Street, Farringdon and Highbury Corner – if plans for the controversial Late-Night Levy are passed by a full meeting of Islington Council tonight.
The levy is expected to raise up to £1.5million to deal with the borough’s rampant night-time economy by charging bars, restaurants and off-licences who want to sell alcohol after midnight.
Cllr Paul Convery, Islington Council’s executive member for community safety, said: “One way we will spend the money is to buy a service from a security firm.
“They will pick up drunks, help them get home, stop them getting hurt and falling over, that kind of thing.
“Many of them will be ex-police or ex-military. Big, gentle guys who can be tough when they need to.
“They are not bouncers but they are the next best thing to police.
“They can perform citizens’ arrests and can use minimal force – and they will patrol until 6am.
“You rarely see people causing grief outside pubs, it’s when the cold air hits them that they start falling down and behaving threateningly – like at bus stops.”
Islington has 1,300 licenced premises – nearly a third of which are licensed after midnight – and one in 20 deaths in the borough is linked to alcohol.
The levy was first mooted last year in a bid to combat Islington’s late night drinking problems.
A public consultation was then launched, the results of which are now in.
Unsurprisingly, licensed venues tend to be against the plan, but Cllr Convery says the results are encouraging.
He said: “It’s about three to one in favour among the general public.
“We are not raising a tax for the hell of it. We have big problems with alcohol-related violent crime and health issues in Islington.
“If you go to A&E on a Friday night it smells like a brewery.
“All we want is businesses to pitch in and do their bit.”
Steve Coxshall, owner of The Barnsbury pub, Liverpool Road, Islington, said: “This is another dirty tax. Pubs and clubs are already being hit hard enough – profits are down 40 or 50 per cent from 2008. Another unexplained tax won’t help.
“The security guards idea is possibly the most stupid I have ever heard. They aren’t trained to the same level as police. Officers know how to deal with people who are drunk or on drugs.
“This is asking for trouble. It puts the public at risk.”
David Wilson, community safety spokesman for Islington’s opposition Lib Dem group, said: “We’ve all seen incidents of alcohol-related anti-social behaviour in our neighbourhoods. The impact of people drinking to excess on crime and nuisance levels in Islington is massive. Parts of Islington at closing time are like Las Vegas, so it’s time to take action.
“Keeping the borough’s streets safe is the police’s responsibility though. The Late Night Levy is supposed to fund more policing and street cleaning. It shouldn’t be wasted on hiring private security guards or glorified bouncers at residents’ expense.”