The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has expressed fears about the extra costs and burdens that could be caused by a new cost recovery scheme from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The plans could see pubs and bars charged £750 for a letter informing them of an initial breach of health and safety law, after an inspection. An inspection which results in an enforcement notice will see a charge of £1,500. The ALMR has responded to an HSE consultation, which asks 16 questions relating to the proposals. Kate Nicholls, ALMR strategic affairs director, said: “The proposals, as drafted, will see high, disproportionate costs being imposed on broadly compliant businesses. “The absence of clear guidance on what constitutes a ‘serious material breach’ and a ‘material breach’ and the degree of discretion an inspector has to determine what breaches should be dealt with by way of verbal advice, or a formal letter, remains a matter of serious concern and lays the new regime open to abuse.” A charge should only be made where an inspection results in an enforcement notice, the ALMR said. The group also expressed concern over a two-tier dispute process. Nicholls added: “The dispute resolution process will allow HSE to act as judge and jury on cases where businesses feel a fee should not have been imposed, or where there is a suspicion that the ability to recover costs has driven the enforcement activity, rather than vice versa.” The ALMR said an implementation date of April 2012 is “unrealistic”, and businesses should have at least six months’ notice of the change.

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