A COUNCIL street trader licence has been branded an “unfair tax” by one Swindon businessman.

He fears the £37 charge could put stallholders off taking part in popular events like the Old Town Festival.

Swindon Borough Council brought in new licensing rules earlier this year, following a consultation. The stated purpose of the rules change was to boost the number of street markets in Swindon.The Advertiser understands the trader charge was already in place, but not always enforced.

Marcus Walker-Loveridge branded the £37 daily licence fee “an extraordinary amount to pay”. Commercial stallholders must also pay a £40 fee to Old Town Festival to help the committee, which is made up of volunteers, cover their costs.

“It seems to be the council finding another way of imposing an unfair tax on people,” he said.

The 56-year-old, from Taw Hill, has taken a stall at the festival for the past six years – viewing it as an excellent opportunity to promote dog-walking business Walkers. This year his daughter Roxanne had been hoping to have similar luck with new children’s party business Va-Va Slimes.

He said: “Before, we promoted a family dog walking business. This year, we thought we’d promote the slime. But £77 a day to promote it – for a small business it’s just too much to pay.

“I think it’s a rip off. It’s too expensive. It’s a local family event, the Old Town Festival. It’s a really good festival. We’ve been going there for years.”

Sarah Church, volunteer chairman of the Old Town Festival committee, urged the borough council to rethink its street trader licence charge. “They need to think about a lower price band for these community events, which we want out local businesses to come to,” she said. “We want the sole traders to come out for the day, but they’re put off by the £37 licence.

“We have debated long and hard about dropping our prices, but that risks making the festival unviable.”

Swindon Borough Council was approached for comment.