Trading fees victory for St Albans mobile barista

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 mobile barista served up her bespoke coffee with an even bigger smile this week after it was revealed street trading fees are set to be reduced by St Albans district council.

Following Charlie Powell’s petition to get the fees lowered last year, a scrutiny committee revealed back in October that she had been overcharged almost £1,700 for operating her Soko Coffee van at the city station.

Rather than charge a reduced renewal fee of £360 to Charlie for her business, SADC billed her an annual fee of £750 for the five years she has been trading.

At a meeting held last week the council’s local services scrutiny committee recommended that a new two-tiered licensing fee structure for street trading should be introduced, which will see the council lose £9,000 in trading fee income.

If approved, static sites like Charlie’s will pay a grant fee when they first apply to trade, which has been reduced £80 to £670, and then a much lower renewal fee of £360, while mobile traders will see their £500 a year grant fee reduced by £35 and have to pay a reduced renewal fee of £245.

Commenting on the fee changes Charlie said: I’m happy that they’ve been reduced. It was a worthwhile thing to do – our point has been proven. It just goes to show if you find out your facts – we knew we had a point, we knew it wasn’t right. It’s not on charging businesses that.”

She said she respected the council for looking into the “unreasonable and unjustified” fees and thanked chair of the local services scrutiny committee Cllr Chris White, adding: “They shouldn’t have been charging them. This is a good start.”

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Cllr White said: “Street trading fees are a key element in the council’s overall approach to supporting the local economy. The committee has decided that they need to be looked at again as the law around setting licensing fees has recently changed.

“It has proposed a new fee structure, based on the actual cost of processing grants and renewals, and recommends that the Licensing and Regulatory Committee implements this.”