DOG BOARDERS across the borough have declared victory, after a 379% licence fee hike was dropped.
In August, Wokingham.Today reported that residents who run dog home boarding businesses were being asked to stump up £570 a year in licensing fees, a massive increase from £199 the year before.
At the time, Andy Pragnell, Keephatch resident and owner of dog boarding and walking business, One Man and Your Dog, called the price rise “daylight robbery”.
The charges were set up by the Joint Public Protection Partnership, which includes Wokingham, Bracknell Forest and West Berkshire borough councils.
But numerous complaints from boarders across the three local authorities brought the issue to the Joint Public Protection Committee on Monday, September 28.
Their concern was that all license fees, regardless of business type, have been created and are being managed illegally — because they have all been set at a single price of £57 per hour.
Karen Fleck, an independent dog boarder in Sandhurst, previously said that licence fees cannot be used to cross subsidise other licenses.
“They have to be able to provide an audited account of what the money has been spent on — each type of license should be kept separate,” she said. “And if there is money left in the pot at the end of the year, the LGA says they have to pay us back.”
At the meeting last month, the PPP agreed to reduce the licence fee increase from £570 a year to £241.85 for a renewal and £271.85 for a new licence.
Dog boarders will be charged an additional £115 if inspectors are called out following a complaint.
Ms Fleck added: “All our hard work has paid off. We didn’t think it would after the dreadful meeting but the new fees are a lot lower.”
Mr Pragnell told Wokingham.Today the fee reduction was a “moral victory” for dog borders.
“It’s a positive sign they’ve come down from the original £570,” he said. “The only bit I am disappointed about is that there’s been no formal apology for all of this, which has caused undue stress, especially with the pandemic going on.
“But through the hard work everyone has done, it’s paid off in the end.”
Councillor Hilary Cole, chairman of the PPP and Conservative councillor for Chieveley & Cold Ash in West Berkshire Council confirmed the fee change in a written response to a question in the September meeting.
She wrote: “At no point has the PPP made a surplus on its licensing operations and based on the current budget methodology there is no evidence that it has used surplus from one fee to subsidise another.
“In fact, it has often been the case that the scale and resilience of the PPP has shielded businesses from undesirable increases in fees and charges over the years.
“We have liaised with our legal colleagues and they have reviewed both the amount of the fee, based on evidence provided about the workload requirement, and the level of transparency available to explain how the hourly rate was calculated.
“Any business charged the previous rates for 2020/21 and have not received a mid-year inspection will be refunded.”