By Kelly Wickham
Some 3,000 people have signed a petition against West Sussex County Council’s plans to license tables and chairs on highways land.
The petition was presented to the council’s Conservative cabinet member for highways, Cllr Roger Elkins, by Labour members of the council.
Once the petition has been verified, it will have to be debated at a forthcoming full council meeting.
Cllr Michael Jones, the Labour group’s leader at the council, said: “I appreciate the county council has financial pressures, particularly with regards to highways. We all know this.
“But it is not right that the council invents these things as an excuse to get more money out of people.
“It is little more than a cynical revenue-raising wheeze and, in the present economic climate, it could prove disastrous for these local businesses.”
Last year saw the council demand that businesses, such as cafes, pay £520 a year for a licence to put their tables and chairs on the pavements outside their units.
A consultation last month saw a revised proposal put forward of £20 a year for each seat and a £150 application fee.
A final decision about the scheme is set to be made soon by Cllr Elkins.
But the petition was designed to make him think again about the matter.
Worthing borough councillor Mike Barrett helped to organise the petition.
“Labour councillors across the county have consistently spoken against the introduction of this charge, on any basis.
“This is not something you should be doing to these small and medium-sized businesses who have tight enough margins without the county council inventing new charges.
“This is an unfair charge that does not take into account whether the business is a sole trader or a big multinational like Costa or Starbucks,” he said.
“The fact it wasn’t charged for over two decades makes it even more unacceptable that the county council is trying to resurrect it.”