If you’re a licensed retailer you should be interested in Paul Smith’s feature on page 28 of the latest issue. Over a two month period he contacted 100 councils around the UK and asked if they had considered the precedent set by the Court of Appeal earlier this year [Soho retailers vs Westminster City Council, see ETO issue 113] when setting an annual fee for licensed sex shops.
Not all the replies are included in the article for a number of reasons, not least of which is brevity, as it is already a sizable piece to wade through. Some just repeated what others had said, some had no licensed stores, some treated his question as a Freedom of Information request, thereby giving themselves longer to reply, and others simply didn’t respond at all.
There are two conclusions we can draw from his research. One is that Tim Hemming of ABS and Simply Pleasure has been immortalised in the legislature, as a number of them referred to ‘the Hemming case’ without any prompting from us. The second is that, even now, the system is as chaotic as ever. Outside of Westminster, some councils hadn’t budged, some were adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach, some had dropped a little and some had dropped a lot: examples of the latter include from £9,300 to £5,000, from £3,000 to £1,541.28, from £7,500 to £2,000, and even more dramatically, from £5,700 to £495.
If you are one of those licensed stores who still haven’t challenged your local council over the amount you’re paying then you owe it to your business to do so now. And I would say you also owe Tim Hemming a drink.