St Albans street trading fees reviewed

Soko Coffee owner Charlie Powell challenged the council and found out that she has been over paying

Soko Coffee owner Charlie Powell challenged the council and found out that she has been over paying fees - Credit: Archant

A triumphant street trader’s campaign against the district council has revealed they have overcharged her almost £1,700 in fees after it was brought before a scrutiny committee meeting last week.

Rather than charge a reduced renewal fee of £360 to city station-based Charlie Powell for her business Soko Coffee, St Albans council (SADC) have billed an annual fee of £750 for the five years she has been trading.

These fees will now be investigated following a recommendation by the local services scrutiny committee at a meeting last Thursday.

Speaking on the evening, Lesley Cameron, business compliance manager for the council, said the meeting marked the first time the proper breakdown of the fees had been worked out.

The Herts Advertiser first reported on the “unjustified” costs back in June, after Charlie wrote to SADC requesting a breakdown of how the annual fee is spent within the street trading consent department, but they were unable to show this as they “do not hold records in that way”.

Charlie added: “It’s good to hear that the council have finally got round to breaking down the cost of the licence. One assumes that this sort of calculation happens before a fee is set, and not years down the line, but better late than never.

“It appears that my campaign has unearthed the fact that SADC has failed to work out the true cost, and charge accordingly, which it is legally required to do.

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“Councils are legally not allowed to make a “profit” out of our fees, yet it appears they have been making a profit out of my fees for five years now.

“They have been charging a guesstimate for too long and haven’t considered the impact on local business – but it’s time to change.”

The committee agreed to set up a sub-group including chair of the meeting Cllr Chris White and Cllr Simon Grover to investigate the fee costs.

Cllr White said: “It is an important topic that deserves to be looked at in depth as part of the council’s overall approach to supporting the local economy.”