Moves by Southwark Council to increase fees for some market traders in the borough by 20% have been condemned as a ‘tax on healthy eating’ by Liberal Democrat councillors.
In a report setting out proposed fees for market and street traders from April 2015, the Council states that fruit and vegetable stallholders in East Street, London Bridge and North Cross Road should pay up to 20% more for their trading permit.
No increases are planned for other market traders and the Council admits the move involves maximising revenue. Comparisons with other London boroughs show that fees and charges are generally being frozen or curtailed to inflation in the majority of authorities in order to support local traders.
Southwark has previously also frozen its fees for all market traders. The Council justifies its u-turn by stating that waste collection costs have risen at these markets.
Liberal Democrat Environment Spokesperson, Councillor James Barber, said:
“Liberal Democrats are fighting for more jobs in Southwark. But moves by the Council to increase some market traders’ costs way above the rate of inflation won’t help keep people in work.
“Our borough street markets play a vital part in keeping the local economy going and bringing people into our local shopping parades and town centres. They also do a great job showing residents the benefits of eating cheaper, healthier food.
“So it is incredible that the borough with the highest rate of childhood obesity in the country is considering this massive rise in fees for stalls selling fruit and vegetables. It is effectively a tax on healthy eating.
“It seems a total contradiction when the borough is now responsible for public health. How can the Council justify this move? It is hard to believe that waste collection costs at these specific sites have risen by 20% in one year.
“The Council needs to explain why it is picking on these fruit and vegetable traders like this and making them take all the pain.”