Brighton beach hut owners go to war with ‘bullying’ Labour council threatening to tear them down unless they pay new 10 per cent ‘stealth tax’
Owners of Brighton beach huts have declared war on the Labour-run council over ‘outrageous’ plans to bring in a ‘stealth tax’ on the huts.
New rules seeking to be implemented by the Brighton and Hove City Council could see a 10 per cent effective sales tax, amounting to thousands of pounds.
The fee would be based on the sale price from April and was proposed by councillors in lieu of raising the annual £503.60 licence fee.
But owners say the terms of the licences amount to ‘extortion’ and have accused the council of ‘bullying’ and ‘coercive behaviour’.
Now, unanimous in their opposition, owners have launched a protest demanding the council drops their plans.
Owners of Brighton beach huts have declared war on the Labour-run council over ‘outrageous’ plans to bring in a ‘stealth tax’ on the huts
Beach Hut owner Paula Ford sends a message to Brighton & Hove city council
New rules seeking to be implemented could see a 10 per cent effective sales tax, amounting to thousands of pounds
Under the terms of a new licence, owners who sell their huts will have to pay a fee to the council amounting to thousands of pounds.
Currently hut owners pay the council an annual licence fee of £503.50 and an ownership transfer fee of £82 if they sell up.
But under the new licence owners who sell their huts would have to pay 10 per cent of the final sale price or four times the £503.50 annual licence fee – whichever is the largest.
With huts selling for up to £35,000, it could mean that owners have to pay the council a massive £3,500.
Owners say that with much of the value of the huts lying in their desirable seaside location it would mean their huts would be almost worthless.
The council says anyone who does not agree to sign the new licence terms by next April will be required to remove their huts.
‘This is outrageous. It is nothing other than a stealth tax,’ said Paula Ford, who has owned a beach hut for 30 years, ‘It’s a shocking move by the council and they should be ashamed of themselves.’
She said: ‘The huts don’t belong to the council. They are privately owned by us but we just site them on land owned by the council.’
There are 459 beach huts on Hove seafront that are privately owned by residents in the seaside resort, with the annual cost of licences generating around £192,000 for the council.
According the council, the value of these huts has risen to a range of £25,000 and £35,000 based on its location and condition.
Similar transfer fee schemes are in place at neighbouring authorities, including Adur and Worthing.
Currently hut owners pay the council an annual licence fee of £503.50 and an ownership transfer fee of £82 if they sell up
But under the new licence owners who sell their huts would have to pay 10 per cent of the final sale price or four times the £503.50 annual licence fee
With huts selling for up to £35,000, it could mean that owners have to pay the council a massive £3,500
Ms Ford said: ‘I’ve owned a hut for more than 30 years and over that time have invested significantly in its upkeep, including repairing and repainting it when necessary.
‘I could understand the council requiring a transfer fee if there were services we were able to take advantage of but the seafront toilets are often closed or vandalised and we often have no running water.’
She said: ‘With unanimous opposition from beach hut owners the threat to take away their beach huts for refusing to sign the new licence is the bullying, unreasonable behaviour of the worst landlord.’
David and Susie Howells, who have owned their beach hut for 20 years, added: ‘The beach huts on the promenade are a much-photographed attraction and beach hut owners all play our part as a community that adds value to the seafront experience for both residents and visitors to Brighton and Hove.’
Serena Mitchell, who bought her hut in 2017, also described the proposals as a ‘stealth tax’.
She said: ‘They use the word ‘fee’ as councils are not legally allowed to charge a tax on property sales. The government can and do.’
Another owner said: ‘We use the hut a lot and love time spent there. Whilst I appreciate central government cutbacks have had a devastating effect on local council offices, the rise from the current £82 to what is proposed is nothing short of extortion.’
About 20 beach huts a year are sold and the new fee is estimated to generate about £60,000 a year for the council.
Councillor Alan Robins, Chair of the Culture, Heritage, Sport, Tourism & Economic Development Committee said: ‘Currently the Council is not benefiting in any way from the profit made on the sale of a beach hut when most of the value is due to its prime position on the seafront.
There are a total of 459 beach huts along Brighton and Hove’s seafront which are owned privately by locals
‘If the transfer fee is introduced, then the additional revenue can be reinvested back into seafront services such as our lifeguards.
‘It’s an extremely challenging time for local government finances, and the potential income will go towards providing essential life-saving services while offering council land for hut owners to enjoy the seafront.’
Councillors are being asked to sign off the proposed beach hut licence at the council’s Culture, Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Economic Development Committee at Hove Town Hall on Thursday, November 9.
This comes after the city councillor’s auditors, Grant Thornton, warned the authority needed to make around £70million worth of budget cuts by 2027 or they could fall into effective bankruptcy, as Labour-run Birmingham Council did in September.
The council could be forced into making ‘politically unattractive or undesirable decisions in the interests of the authority’s future viability’, accountants said.
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