Just another ‘stealth tax’

Local John Fawcas buying his fish from James Lough on the right from Eyemouth who is stunned at a rise in the cost at selling his fish from his van in England.
Local John Fawcas buying his fish from James Lough on the right from Eyemouth who is stunned at a rise in the cost at selling his fish from his van in England.

plans by Northumberland County Council to introduce street trade licences of up to £600 for businesses operating in the county but without permanent premises there have been described as “protectionist” by MSP John Lamont.

If the proposals go ahead Eyemouth fish merchants who include Northumberland towns and villages in their weekly delivery runs will need to apply for the £600 licence, although one of them has only just found out about the move and the chances are that others are completely unaware that come August this year they may be operating illegally.

One Eyemouth merchant has premises in Berwick which may allow them to operate in Northumberland within a 20 miles radius of those premises but as they sell as far south as Morpeth they may also be forced to re-think their business operations.

Eyemouth fish merchant James Lough said: “I only found out about it last week when I was on my delivery to Glanton. The chairman of Glanton Parish Council read a piece about it to me. It’s just another stealth tax. We have two vans that operate in Northumberland, one day a week (on Thursdays he sells fish door to door in Berwick, Tweedmouth and Scremerston, the other van travels as far south as Guide Post) - that would cost us £1200 a year!”

“I’ve been doing this run in north Northumberland and the Borders for 30 years and my father delivered for 25 years.”

After accidentally finding out the impact the new licensing laws in Northumberland could have on his business, Mr Lough contacted Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP John Lamont.

After investigating, John Lamont said: “I have been approached by local fish merchant James Lough who is concerned about Northumberland Council’s plans to introduce a street traders’ licence of up to £600.

“This would be a huge extra cost to these small businesses who would be required to pay the fee.

“Fish vans provide an important service to communities on both sides of the Border.

“The fact that most Northumberland traders will be exempt from the charges is particularly disappointing, essentially giving them a huge advantage over their Berwickshire competitors. It is no surprise that people in Northumberland want to buy the excellent fish from Berwickshire. It’s a shame that the local council is considering plans to hinder this.

“This anti-competitive move by Northumberland Council discriminates unfairly against Berwickshire traders. I have written to the chief executive of the local authority to express these concerns and ask that the charges are reconsidered.”

Formal consultations about the four options originally on the table for extending street trading licences ended in September last year, representations about the proposals could be made to the council until Friday last week. May 13.

If approved the new provisions for the control of street trading within Northumberland would come into force on August 22, 2011, to prohibit street trading from a “street” within Northumberland without the consent of the council.

There are a number of exemptions: fetes, carnivals and community based and run events; non–commercial or charitable events; Farmers Markets (producer managed market place for local producers to sell their own produce direct to local people); sales of articles by householders on land contiguous with their own homes; businesses who would normally operate from fixed retail premises within the Northumberland County Council boundary which sells its own goods to the general public within a radius of 20 miles from such premises; community fairs and craft events; events celebrating local anniversaries; operators of statutory services such as mobile libraries who sell restricted goods to the community as part of their service.