Petition launched to alter 'stealth tax' on traders gathers more than 100 signatures

New street trading rules in Stockton have sparked a petition
New street trading rules in Stockton have sparked a petition -Credit:Terry Blackburn Teesside Live

A petition has been started to change new street trading rules which opponents have branded a "stealth tax".

The new policy means anyone wanting to sell goods on a street in Stockton will need consent to trade from Stockton Council. The whole borough has been made a "consent area" for street trading, rather than certain streets as before, with fees from ranging £100 to £2,140, according to the council's website.

Independent councillor Ted Strike has raised issues with the policy, suggesting it would have an impact which would be a "betrayal" of community events. Now the petition is calling for a change.

Cllr Strike, who represents Ingleby Barwick North, said he hoped for a council debate as traders had reacted against the policy. He said: "They all think it's absolutely disgraceful. They're not happy at all. That's why we'll fight it.

"We've started a petition against this stealth tax for the street trading consent. We put it online and got over 100 (signatures) in a few hours. We're hoping to get 1,000 and that'll be a debate.

'They should not be taxed'

"We've got a motion going forward in this month's council meeting. It'll be read out and seconded, and it goes back to licensing so it won't be debated."

The petition is titled "remove the levy charged on local and community markets by Stockton Borough Council" and requests that the council alters the rules to make all community events exempt, including the community market, family fun weekend and Christmas lights switch-on in Ingleby Barwick, the Thornaby and Billingham shows and Norton Green Christmas market. At time of writing it had gathered 163 signatures.

One person commenting on the petition said: "Stockton Council should be there to help the local businesses and public. This tax doesn't help local businesses." Another wrote: "It's a community event. They should not be taxed."

The plans were passed by the council earlier this year despite a mixed reception, with some saying it was "a sensible and considered way forward", others warning it would be "excessive and oppressive" and would put small traders out of business. Council leaders said most concerns about impact on charity or non-profit-making organisations were allayed by changes to the policy during consultation.

Councillors Ted Strike and Norma Stephenson spoke at a Stockton Council about a new street trading policy
Councillors Ted Strike and Norma Stephenson spoke at a Stockton Council about a new street trading policy -Credit:Stockton Council

Cllr Strike has raised the issue at a council meeting, saying the "unnecessary tax" could prevent community events. But his request to change the rules and exempting existing events was rejected.

Cllr Norma Stephenson, cabinet member for communities, told that meeting the new regime started after "an extensive period of consultation" and themes were raised and addressed by changes to the guidelines. She said "established markets" were exempt, though some markets were not classified as such under a national charter.

She said fairs were exempt and fair rides were not classed as trading, but any selling of goods would fall under the rules and need temporary event consent. She added events which charge to attend with "robust plans" to control access were also exempt, and the application, payment and guidance ensured the process was "as easy and efficient as it can be".

Cllr Strike said the policy would leave the Ingleby Barwick Community Partnership with "less money to spend on the family fun weekend and also on additional lights at Christmas. Handing over hundreds of pounds to SBC for this stealth tax does not help our small committee in bringing these free events to our residents."

Cllr Stephenson added today: "An extension to the consent street trading resolution was introduced across Stockton-on-Tees following extensive consultation across the borough with a wide range of partners, taking into consideration the impact on local groups and organisations. While there are some exemptions, events with commercial traders now need a street trading consent.

"We always try to strike a fair balance between supporting a vibrant local economy and protecting the public. This resolution helps to ensure traders meet local needs and provides us with powers to deal with issues raised."

The council says it consulted with public, police and highways officials, existing and potential trade, councillors, town and parish councils, voluntary sector and other council departments. Traders at established chartered markets, pedlars, news vendors, shops, petrol stations, pavement licences and charity street collection permits are exempted by the law.

The council says it recognises the valuable work of charity, community and voluntary sectors, and their trading for fundraising activities making no commercial gain are also exempted from street trading control. This includes trading by "registered charity or recognised association or other non-profit making organisation", church events and school festivals.

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