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FINANCIAL LIFELINE: Small firms can pay licence fees in stages

FINANCIAL LIFELINE: Small firms can pay licence fees in stages

Image: LDRS

Small and self-employed businesses in Wolverhampton that are required to pay an annual licence fee to operate have been given a financial lifeline.

Licensing bosses this week agreed to allow certain smaller companies – those dealing in acupuncture, tattooing, electrolysis, semi-permanent skin colouring and cosmetic piercings among others – to pay their fees in instalments.

Councillors made the ruling as a way of helping businesses forced to close by the Covid-19 pandemic make a recovery after lockdown.

It was decided as part of the licensing committee’s  review of fees and charges for general licensing matters, which established that rates should remain unchanged for the year 2021-22.

The payment agreement also applies to sex establishments, businesses using dangerous or wild animals, objects placed on the highways, pre-printed materials, minibus permits and costs relating to sports grounds safety.

Animal welfare fees agreed by the licensing committee in November 2018 are also set to remain unchanged for the coming year.

The council’s Commercial Regulations Manager Chris Howell said: “The premises and businesses that hold these types of licences have been adversely affected by Covid-19 and the lockdown.

“However, the cost to the council of the provision of these licences has not reduced. It is recognised that many businesses are experiencing financial difficulties during the pandemic and the recovery period thereafter.

“Rather than requiring the payments up front or in one lump sum, we’re going to allow these businesses to pay on the ‘never never’, if you like.

“It needs to be paid in this financial year but we’ll spread the payments out so that they don’t have to find it all in one go.

“This will allow businesses to restart after lockdown and after the pandemic and start to earn a bit of money before they have to pay their fees,” he added.

Licensing committee chairman Cllr Alan Bolshaw (Lab. Merry Hill) said: “When fees stay the same or are reduced, that is something that is going to be universally welcomed by businesses. We want to get the city up and running and vibrant again.”

Cllr Rita Potter (Lab. Wednesfield North) added: “I think this will be very, very helpful to businesses that are struggling at the moment, with many of them having been forced to close.

“It’s lovely to see that the city is helping these people out with this payment arrangement. I think it will be a real boost to local businesses.”

The recommendation was moved by Cllr Potter and seconded by Cllr Zee Russell (Lab. Ettingshall). Members agreed to the decision unanimously.

Nicola Thompson, owner of Lavandula Blu Beauty and Holistic Therapies in Wednesfield, said: “It’s great to see that the council are helping small businesses out with licensing fees.

“Every little helps small businesses – particularly those in the close contact service industry, as I would say they are one of the worst-affected businesses on the High Street.”

Chris Priest, owner of Cult of the Sphynx Tattooists, also in Wednesfield, added: “It’s great that the council is stepping up and helping those who are self-employed or running small businesses.

“The council has also offered local grants to help small businesses and I’ve just applied for mine.”

Words: Joe Sweeney, Local Democracy Reporter

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