One of the first beneficiaries under the new Tory-UKIP administration in Southend looks like being tax-dodging baristas, Starbucks, infamous for their creative accounting that led to it paying just £8.6 million tax in the UK on sales of £3 billion over a 14 year period – averaging just over £600,000 in tax paid each year!
Strangely, UKIP have insisted that their new Tory bed-fellows scrap fees paid by businesses for placing tables and chairs on the pavements of Southend.
Under a policy first introduced by the Tories to “stop shops cluttering the streets”, cafes, pubs and restaurants in Southend where required to pay to have tables and chairs on the pavement – currently that fee is £200 a year, per table, which works out at just 55p a day. This not only brings income for the council, but also pays for the inspection of sites to ensure the areas are maintained and presented to a suitable standard.
Now, as the pavement is council property it doesn’t seem too unreasonable to charge a ‘rent’ for this space – after all, in effect, we as residents of Southend collectively own the pavements, and the cafes and restaurants are making a profit from customers sitting at these tables.
It would seem most councils charge to put tables on their pavements – in Oxford it’ll cost you £900 pa for 10 table, in Cambridge £100/sq metre + £250 admin fee (probably works out the same as in Southend), whilst in Hammersmith and Fulham you’d have to shell out a whopping £681 for each table on the high street!
With Southend Council having its budget cut by over £8 million year on year by Tory central government, why on earth are the local Tories agreeing to UKIP’s demands to subsidise the likes of Costa, Starbucks and Cafe Nero?
I was recently talking to an independent coffee shop owner in Southend who feels the charge is currently far too high for a small business, but would be happy to pay a lower rate. I, along with Southend Labour Party, are very keen to support local business. Their overheads and running costs are proportionally much higher for them than those of their fellow multi-national competitors like Starbucks. Instead of giving money away to overseas big-business, why don’t we just scrap the table charges for smaller outlets – say those with under 10 or 15 employees – thereby helping our local business community to compete with the ‘big boys’ on a more level playing field? Do we really want our high streets swamped with carbon-copy coffee shops, making every high street in the UK look exactly the same? Or would you prefer to see it populated by diverse and unique local businesses that keep money circulating in our town, rather than it being syphoned off into shareholder’s bank accounts around the world?
It’s us, the local residents, that will have to make up the shortfall in council income, either by a reduction in services elsewhere or through our Council Tax. It’s pretty obvious from the outset who the Tories and UKIP will be working for during their (hopefully short) time in office at Southend – and it’s not local residents!