New Judgment: R (Hemming (t/a Simply Pleasure Ltd) & Ors) v Westminster City Council  UKSC 25
29 Wednesday Apr 2015
On appeal from:  EWCA Civ 591.
The claimant runs sex shops in the Westminster area. The respondent has over past years required applicants for licences to pay a substantial sum (£29,435 in 2011/12) with their applications, broken down into a smaller amount (£2,667) relating to the processing of the application and a larger amount (£26,435) relating to the cost of administering and enforcing the licensing regime as a whole. The larger amount was refundable whenever an application failed.
The claimant argues that this system was unlawful under domestic and EU law. His primary case was that there is no basis for requiring successful or unsuccessful applicants to meet the costs of administering and enforcing the regime. But he also developed a secondary case, that there was no basis for requiring such costs to be paid with the applications, even on a refundable basis.
Held: Paragraph 19 of Schedule 3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 enables a licencing authority to impose on an applicant a fee for the grant or renewal of a licence which covers the running and enforcement costs of the licensing scheme, to be payable either (a) at the time when the licence is granting; or (b) on a refundable basis, at the time when the application is lodged. EU law permits (a), but it is unclear what the requirements of EU law are in relation to (b) and on the question of whether it was lawful to require payment of the larger refundable amounts with the applications, a reference was made to the CJEU.