Businesses with outside spaces in Croydon are facing a massive rise of up to 2,700 per cent in small business charges, according to one local café owner. A petition opposing the proposed increase has already attracted nearly 800 signatures.
Restaurants, food stalls and coffee shops will be expected to pay £3 per square metre per week for using outdoor space from April, replacing the current annual flat fee of £89.
Local businessman Saif Bonar, owner of local town centre cafe-bar Matthews Yard, told Eastlondonlines many small businesses considered the increase unfair and damaging. It had left them, he said, with feelings of “rage, fury, anger and disappointment”.
He also criticised Croydon Council for the way local businesses were informed about the proposed increase, saying it was done in a “very closed and non-public way”.
He continued: “We would like the council to adopt a fairer policy and step the increase over two, three, four or even five years so they reach the [income] figure they feel they need to reach, while also giving us room to absorb the increases into our cashflow and operating budget.”
Under the proposed increase, Matthews Yard would be paying an extra £2,400 pounds per year to have tables and chairs outside, a change Bonar described as “crippling”.
He said: “We would need to secure 10 times that figure in sales revenue from the space to justify it as a business expense. This is unlikely given the British weather and so we would most likely have no option but to withdraw the outside tables and chairs altogether.” This, he added, would be at odds with council policies intended to make the town centre more family friendly.
Council leader Tony Newman is on record however as defending the proposals, calling the current charge “pitifully low”. The previous Conservative administration should have addressed the situation, he said, adding: “The real story is how residents have been subsidising business in Croydon for eight years.” It is understood that further discussions are now taking place over how the charges will be implemented.