Regina v Westminster City Council, ex parte Hutton: 1985

H challenged the fee set for applying for a livence to operate a sex shop. The administrative costs on which the fee was based in the year in question included a sum representing the supposed shortfall in fee income against administrative costs in the previous year.
Held: In setting the application fee for a sex shop licence, the fee could reflect not only the processing of applications but ‘inspecting premises after the grant of licences and for what might be called vigilant policing . . in order to detect and prosecute those who operated sex establishments without licences’.
The Council was free to fix fees reflecting all the three necessary elements on a rolling basis without adjusting surpluses and deficits in each year.
Forbes J said: ‘I accept entirely that to carry forward a deficit from one year to another may result in anomalies when considering the effect of that process on applicants for grants or renewal of what are annual licences. The persons who, in the year in which the deficit is brought in, seek the grant or renewal of licences may well not be the same people who sought the grant or renewal in the previous year. Those in the previous year may have been fortunate to be undercharged. There is no certainty that, by bringing the deficit into the next year’s accounts and therefore recouping from the next year’s applicants, the authority will be exacting the money from those who morally ought to pay. But to my mind such a comparison is itself irrelevant in the context of local authority finance. The statutory accounts of local authorities are structured on the basis that shortfalls in one year must be carried into the next year’s accounts. The identity of the ratepayers who contribute to the General Rate Fund is changing all the time. If an authority, as a matter of policy, which is itself not challenged on the ground of immateriality, decides that the cost of a service from year to year shall not fall on the ratepayers, that decision would benefit ratepayers of different identities and may disadvantage or advantage from year to year different persons who benefit from the service. I accept [Westminster’s counsel’s] contention that when a charge is based on an annual budget, which must be concerned with situations which themselves will not be verifiable until after the end of the year in question, the only sensible way to fix the level of the charge is to take one year with another.’


Forbes J


(1985) 83 LGR 516


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedHemming (T/A Simply Pleasure Ltd) and Others v Westminster City Council Admn 16-May-2012
The applicant had sought a license for a sex establishment. He paid the (substantial) fee, but complained that the Council had not as required, resolved to set the fee, and that in any event, the sum did not reflect the cost of administering the . .
CitedHemming (T/A Simply Pleasure Ltd) and Others, Regina (on The Application of) v The Lord Mayor and Citizens of Westminster CA 24-May-2013
The claimant had submitted an application for a licence to operate a sex shop. On its failure it sought repayment of that part of the fee which related to the costs of supervising the system, rather than the costs of dealing with the application. It . .
CitedHemming (T/A Simply Pleasure Ltd) and Others, Regina (on The Application of) v Westminster City Council SC 29-Apr-2015
The parties disputed the returnability of the fees paid on application for a sex establishment licence where the licence was refused. The fee was in part one for the application, and a second and greater element related to the costs of monitoring . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Local Government, Licensing

Updated: 08 May 2022; Ref: scu.565400