Shop owner aims to give traders a voice
A SHOP owner in Colchester says he will stand in forthcoming council elections in a bid to get the voice of independent traders heard.Steve Miller, who runs a stationery shop in the run-down St Botolph's area of the town, made his decision after it was announced that all local firms would have to pay an annual £520 charge to have their trade paper and cardboard waste collected.
By Roddy Ashworth
A SHOP owner in Colchester says he will stand in forthcoming council elections in a bid to get the voice of independent traders heard.
Steve Miller, who runs a stationery shop in the run-down St Botolph's area of the town, made his decision after it was announced that all local firms would have to pay an annual £520 charge to have their trade paper and cardboard waste collected.
The flat rate would apply to all shops, regardless of their turnover, size or amount of waste produced.
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Mr Miller is to stand in May's local elections as a candidate for Castle Ward under the banner of a “Save the Independent and Specialist Shops” campaign.
Mr Miller said that around 500 small businesses were facing problems caused by Colchester Borough Council, which included congestion, a lack of investment in the town centre, poor public transport and run-down facilities.
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In particular, he said that car parking arrangements were detrimental to small traders.
“It is widely discussed amongst shopkeepers that trade is now worse than ever before with the problems of congestion and the excessive cost of car parking being the main complaint.
“It seems that having attracted shoppers to come to Colchester in the first place, the borough council have created a ridiculous situation that, once entering a car park, the pricing structure leaves the visitor with no alternative other than to spend the shortest time possible and move on.
“This invariably reduced the viability of restaurants, tourist attractions, parks and shops that could benefit.
“The revenue of £3,300,000 from council-owned car parks should be ring-fenced and re-invested in town centre facilities which would benefit businesses and residents alike.”
In a letter to councillors, Mr Miller also heavily criticised the new policy regarding charges for the collection of cardboard and paper waste.
“How is it that a store such as Debenhams, for example, could be charged the same for their vast collection of paper waste as my own small shop is, or the hairdressers, which has virtually nothing?
“Obviously the small independent shops of Colchester are not as important to the council as they would have us believe. These fees are totally out of line,” he wrote.
Yesterday Kevin Bentley, borough council cabinet member with responsibility for business and tourism, said the decision to charge businesses for waste collection was going to be reviewed.
“The trade waste collection for shops has always been paid out of domestic rates, and not from business rates, so I think it is fair they should contribute,” he added.
“But I think there needs to be a sliding scale so that small shops should pay less than big ones.”
He also defended the council's record for bringing in visitors.
“We had five million people visiting Colchester last year, and that's just tourism figures.
“I am told that Colchester did extremely well at Christmas compared to other towns in the east of England.
“This administration is very pro small, independent traders. In terms of the regeneration of the St Botolph's area, it's going to be great and will bring in many more people.”
He added he was pleased Mr Miller was standing for the council.
“Anybody who wants to stand for the council should be welcomed. I welcome anyone who wants to get into the political arena and stand up for what they believe in.”