Political leaders from Adur and Worthing have penned a joint letter opposing controversial increases in outdoor seating licence fees.
Worthing and Shoreham’s MPs Sir Peter Bottomley and Tim Loughton have joined council leaders Dan Humphreys and Neil Parkin in urging West Sussex County Council to scrap the ‘disproportionate’ fee hike.
Traders have been told they must pay £520 a year to have outdoor seating, regardless of size, which the letter said was ‘penalising small businesses’.
The letter, dated August 26 and addressed to county council leader Louise Goldsmith, said: “This will have a significant impact on businesses in Adur and especially Worthing where the ‘café culture’ which has done much to enhance the town is amongst the most concentrated in West Sussex.
“We are also very concerned about the way the announcement was made ‘out of the blue’ and with no consultation with us.
“Many local business owners and business organisations have expressed their fears about the impact these increases will have on their establishments and we share those concerns.”
Earlier this month, Worthing traders said the fee increases could be the ‘last straw’ for some small businesses and accused the county council of dealing them a ‘low blow’.
Daniel Humphreys had already pledged to stand with Worthing’s traders: Worthing traders, councillors and leaders unite over controversial outdoor seating fees
West Sussex businesses are currently charged an initial fee of £412 for a tables and chairs licence, which drops to £200 for subsequent years.
The new charge would be a flat £520 a year a 260 per cent increase that the council said ‘is a result of benchmarking with similar local authorities’.
In comparison, East Sussex businesses are charged £260 a year, while Brighton and Hove operates on a sliding scale from £176 to £360 depending on size, with additional charges for the amount of highway space taken up.
The leaders’ letter said they did not object to the principle of charging for outdoor seating, but questioned the lack of evidence around the county council’s benchmarking.
It said: “We understand that West Sussex County Council is having to find savings at the moment, but we would respectfully suggest that penalising small businesses with disproportionate increases without any additional benefits to them is not the way to go about it.
“We hope therefore that it will be possible to revisit these proposals and come up with a fairer and more sustainable alternative.”
West Sussex County Council said a licence fee was necessary to cover administration costs, amid ‘ongoing financial pressures’.
The fee increase has been part of a difficult month for Worthing’s traders, who have also condemned potential plans by the county council to ban non-residential evening parking in the town centre. Read more about that here: Traders fear potential town centre parking ban would ‘hit Worthing like a brick’