Council Backtrack on Street Trading Fee Rises
Failed to take into account limits on rates when imposing huge increases
Planned fivefold rises in fees for pavement dining on Chiswick High Road have been withdrawn after it was discovered that the increase failed to take into account limits set for street trading charges in other parts of London.
Local businesses had been informed last week that they would face dramatically increased charges for permission to place dining tables outside and other items such as 'A' boards raising fears that Chiswick's 'cafe culture' would be severely undermined.
Hounslow Council leader Steve Curran has publicly thanked local Councillor John Todd for bringing the matter to his attention and apologised for any concern caused to local businesses. Cllr Todd had described the rises as 'outrageous and unjustified' and urged the Council to immediately reconsider them.
Cllr Curran said, "‘I would like to personally thank Cllr John Todd, member for Chiswick Homefields, for bringing to my attention the significant increases to the licence fees for pavement tables and chairs and ‘A’ boards which have recently been notified to businesses across the borough."
Cllr Curran added that the increases are not correct and happened as a result of a review undertaken by Hounslow Council officers who looked at the charges across London but failed to take into account limits to licensing fees which are applied elsewhere.
The increased charges are being suspended with immediate effect and the Council will review the fees and charges again and consult with the Chambers of Commerce for Brentford and Hounslow and local businesses.
David Lesniak of Outsider Tart who had been presented with an invoice five times the previous amount for his outside tables said, "This result would not have been possible without John Todd. It is reprehensible an error of this magnitude, reached by a committee no doubt, has gotten this far. In the private sector, someone would lose a job over this. Those responsible should be held accountable. A tremendous amount of resources was needed to achieve this blunder. And we had the privilege of paying for it."
Stephen Fry of the Hounslow Chamber of Commerce said, “Delighted common sense has prevailed. Businesses in the Borough are the employment lifeline for our local people. Over tax business and the new jobs our local firms create will evaporate”
Mike Moran of Top Hat Dry Cleaners on Devonshire Road said, "there is good and bad within this story, the bad is obviously the fact that erroneous invoices have been sent out, at a cost to us and is that factored in as part of their admin charge I wonder? The good of course is Cllr Todd's work bringing it to the notice of the powers that be at the Civic Centre and Cllr Curran for his swift action in halting the charge. Again the silent majority have the 'noisy' minority to thank for raising the issue in the first place."
When originally queried about the rise, a council officer had claimed that they had previously been significantly undercharging for administering the system. In response to a letter of complaint from a local business a Council Officer responded that the process had been analysed and the existing charges did not cover the costs.
The regulations that cover the service allow Councils to make reasonable cost recovery for any licensing scheme but not to run it as a revenue generating venture. They are allowed to include administrative costs, material costs and compliance visits.
Cllr Curran said, "Of course, we will publicly communicate the outcome of these discussions in due course before any final decision is taken.
April 4, 2015