Byron United said businesses in the shire already had to deal with some of the highest rents in the state, and now new fees had been imposed by the council on all businesses that handled or sold food.
Restaurants, cafes, nightclubs, guesthouses, pubs, bottle shops, convenience, video stores and any business handling and selling food have been hit with the new fee which has been legislated by the State Government.
A spokesperson for Byron United and head of the Restaurant and Café Group, Ben Kirkwood, said the council already had some of the highest inspection fees in the state and had now elected to take the up the maximum allowable charges under the legislation provision.
He said the fees that council was charging were based on employee numbers, which meant that very small businesses might pay $250 in fees plus $143 per inspection, with two per year totalling $286, whereas a big business could pay as much as $2000 plus inspections.
“However, most average-sized food businesses will be slugged $500 plus a fee per inspection, which is more than double the amount Lismore, Ballina and Tweed Heads charge any-sized food business,” Mr Kirkwood said.
“I was shocked at the council’s response when I wrote to the general manager Mr (Graeme) Faulkner asking what the new fees would be used for and why there had not been any consultation with business.
“Mr Faulkner said it was just the cost of doing business in NSW, not just Byron Shire.
“This was a strange statement considering the NSW Government made legislative changes only to allow councils recoup some of their administration costs.
“We are now trying to establish how much total revenue the council expects to raise from every business, whether they are a B&B, a convenience store, service station or cafe.
“We are also asking council to tell us what their costs are for operating their health department.”
Mr Kirkwood said it was understood that council went against its own staff recommendations in electing to charge Byron Shire businesses the highest rates that the group was aware of in New South Wales.
He said Byron United was not opposed to the levying of an administration fee, but it wanted to see that the costs were competitive with other shires and if the council was benefiting by receiving huge amounts of extra revenue.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.