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Greenwich Council admits 'we got it wrong' after pavement tax backlash
Bella Macleod from The Cheeseboard, Jason Hunter from the Creaky Shed and Michael Bindloss from Drings butchers.
FOLLOWING an angry backlash which saw petitions, protests and opposition from all political parties, Greenwich Council has finally admitted it got a new business charge wrong.
Council leader Councillor Chris Roberts made a rare apology last week at a meeting where protestors dressed as a fruit and vegetable held up placards calling for an end to the "pavement tax".
The council introduced a new weekly charge for the use of pavement space earlier this year without any consultation and at a time when small businesses were already struggling. Some shops claimed it would cost them an extra £1,000 a year and put them out of business.
But, speaking at the town hall last week, where cabinet member in charge Councillor Maureen O'Mara mysteriously failed to turn up, Cllr Roberts said: "We are where we are.
"Have we got this right? Clearly we have not. Should we have consulted? Yes we should, and for that I apologise."
He added that some businesses had welcomed the charge, but said the policy, which would bring Greenwich in line with other boroughs and costs £7 per ssquare metere a week, would be reviewed. He said: "What I do think is that the scheme should protect, as far as we possibly can, the small businesses of the borough."
Greenwich Conservative leader Councillor Spencer Drury branded the policy "outrageous", pointing out it appeared to have been "introduced in secret without any proper discussion", following an informal Labour cabinet meeting.
And, in a suggestion that was rejected by councillors, he called for those who had already paid up to be refunded, saying: "The consultation has to come before the policy rather than after we've introduced the policy."
Federation of Small Businesses borough rep Lorraine Turton, who helped organise a 2,000 signature petition, said afterwards she expected the charge to be dropped entirely for independent shops, which had been hit by the recession and were still recovering from a disappoitnign Olympic summer last year.
She added: "It's the culture with indie high street shops and culture we've been used to for goodness knows how many hundreds of years.
"We welcome the fact this is going to get a review now, it's just a shame it didn't happen in the first place."
'Give us guys a chance'
Susan Donnelly, from Blackheath Pet Supplies, turned up to the meeting with the stuffed dog she puts outside her shop.
She said her business would be hit by the same charges as a big chain like Costa, whilst also having to pay charges for Sundays, even though she only opens six days a week.
Ms Donnelly said: "I've been having threatening letters and the council have been very underhanded.
"Why can't they help and give us guys a chance. They're not giving us anything."
Greengrocer Jason Hunter from The Creaky Shed in Royal Hill said: "Greenwich has been up in arms about it. We're in a recession but charges likes parking permits have been increased, now they want to hit us with this £1,000 trading tax.
"A charge like this should be related to the size of the business. Why should I be paying the same amount as Starbucks?"
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