Table tax axe praised

DELIGHTED traders have spoken of their relief after a controversial table tax proposal was scrapped.

Under the plans, businesses who wanted to operate pavement cafés outside their premises would have to pay hundreds of pounds for the privilege.

Northumberland County Council came up with the scheme to bring all businesses under a single set of regulations, having inherited a number of different policies from the former district and borough councils.

But it caused widespread anger and, after a backlash from traders and councillors, the proposed charges have now been dropped and replaced with a new set of guidelines on the safe and legal operation of pavement cafés across the county.

The outcome has been met with a positive response from traders.

Cathy Porteous, of the Market Place Cafe, Wooler, said: “To be honest, it was a non-starter and it would have been a burden in Wooler. If they had put a tax on, people couldn’t have afforded it.

“I would think that everybody is relieved.”

Alnwick cafe owner Tom McKie, who runs Copperfields and The Lunchbox, was equally delighted.

He said: “It is another bill that we haven’t got to pay. I think they have showed common sense and it is a big relief.”

The announcement that the tax has been taken off the menu has also been welcomed in Amble.

Nick Spurr, from boutique ice-cream parlour Spurreli, said: “I am delighted. From a council’s point of view it would have been a relatively low income but it would definitely have a bearing on small cafés. It is a very positive step to have it scrapped because it would have been just another cost for the small businesses to take on.”

Monica Muckle, from the town’s Jaspers café, added: “For small businesses, if you have any extra taxes or bills it really does have an impact, so we are very pleased with this decision.”

The new guidelines were discussed at the county council’s economic prosperity and strategic services overview and scrutiny committee on Monday.

Coun Gordon Castle, committee chairman, welcomed the cafe re-think.

“It is a very satisfactory outcome,” he said. “It is one less unnecessary additional charge that small businesses don’t have to worry about. They pay very high rents and rates and we shouldn’t be adding to that any more than is absolutely necessary.”

While focused on pavement cafés, the guidelines can also be applied by shopkeepers to other displays on a public highway, including outdoor displays of greengrocery, flowers and household goods. Under the guidelines, the requirement to obtain a licence for a new pavement café has been removed, as has the requirement to obtain planning permission, while existing licences will be allowed to expire and will not be replaced.

They state that fees will no longer be payable to the council for establishing a pavement café, other than if the owner wants to receive advice on-site from an officer.