Brighton and Hove City Council has proposed a 5 per cent increase in the beach hut licence fee and a 10 per cent transfer tax.
The proposed transfer tax equates to an approximate 3,000 per cent increase on the current transfer fee of £82.
A decision is due to be made at the council’s Tourism, Equalities, Communities and Culture Committee meeting at Hove Town Hall today (Thursday 12 January).
I – and the majority of beach hut owners I know – oppose this on the following grounds.
1) There has been no consultation with the individual beach hut owners or the Hove Beach Hut Association of which I am a member. This is especially relevant as our contract with the council will have to change if the proposed changes are to be effected. This in turn will require agreement from the beach hut owners. Most if not all will disagree.
2) This proposal is arguably illegal. Any forced change of contract on beach hut owners would be coercion and bullying of which the worst kind of landlord should be ashamed. Is this beyond the powers of the council? Arguing this point would probably lead to protracted legal battles which I (and others) would be prepared to support.
3) There is no economic argument for this proposal. The amount raised by the new fee (say 10 huts sold in a year = £30,000) would hardly cover the costs of implementing and administering the scheme. Legal expenses incurred by the council in forcing this proposal on unwilling voters would only add to this cost.
4) There is no moral argument for this proposal. It seems, specifically with the transfer tax proposal, that the council is happy to force other people to give them money against their will – which I see as akin to a form of extortion – yet in return give nothing back. We already pay a licence fee for what? Closed toilets? Vandalism and graffiti blighting the seafront? Unenforced by-laws with cyclists carving at high speed through children and older people on the promenade?
5) This proposal is unfair. A transfer fee to cover admin is reasonable but a 3,000 per cent increase is indefensible.
6) This proposal is unaffordable to many. Beach hut owners already pay increasing costs simply to maintain and insure their huts, regardless of the annual above-inflation increases in the licence fee. We face a cost of living crisis too!
7) This proposal victimises generations of Brighton and Hove residents. Owners of the huts are from all backgrounds with huts being passed down through the generations. When a hut owner dies, will their heir be able to afford to keep their hut once they are forced to pay this indefensible and iniquitous tax? And if not, who, they may justly ask, forced this circumstance upon them?
8) This proposal damages our community. One of the strengths of the beach hut community is we come from all walks of life. Yes, some people with beach huts have paid high prices recently for their hut and are perhaps better off than others. But they are few. Do you want only the rich to be able to afford these huts? What of those of us who live in flats, who have no gardens, or who have made other choices in their lives so they can enjoy a few hours a week in their huts by the sea? Perpetual increases of the licence fee and new taxes will make the huts unaffordable to buy and maintain by all but the few.
9) This proposal hurts those who help others. Beach hut owners – especially through the Association – are highly public spirited individuals and families and regularly put on events – such as the “Winter Open Day” this Christmas – that are enjoyed by everyone who can access the seafront. They also raise money for charities.
10) This seems to be a spiteful and politically motivated proposal. I recall this change was tried four years ago but wisely withdrawn. Who among you, specifically, is promoting this divisive proposal this time? Surely you must see the lasting damage this proposal will cause? This is not a “vote winner” for you. Please, reconsider.
Gerard Phillips is a member of Hove Beach Hut Association.
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