Brighton hike no walk in the park

In the face of rising van insurance costs, currently under investigation by the Office of Fair Trading, traders in Brighton are facing a double-whammy with an unexpected increase in parking fees, announced by Brighton & Hove Council at the end of last year.

This has moved local traders to form an online petition to protest against the new cost of the annual parking permit. What was a £350 charge in 2011 has been increased for 2012 to £750, almost 115%, way above the rate of inflation.

Having approved the decision last month in an attempt to raise £1.3M extra revenue this year, the local businesses who will have to foot the bill are asking the council, and anyone who’ll listen, to what extent will the new commercial tax be detrimental to their profitability?

For the sole trader, it can be argued that an extra £400 per annum is neither here nor there, in business terms. However, for entrepreneurs such as maintenance company proprietor Elliott Raggio, whose business supports a fleet of ten Ford Transit vans, his business faces extra costs of £5000 this year.

In the case of local businesses such Raggio’s, not only will he face the expected higher fleet van insurance costs and the extra parking permit fees but there is also the shadow of the extra fuel costs coming in summer when the postponed January charge comes into effect, all multiplied by the factor of vehicles within the business.

The nature of his business means that, wherever his contract takes him, he will have to drive to carry out his service. He cannot bring the property to his premises to carry out repairs.

In his drive to drum up support and give the online petition more weight, he echoed that he is not alone in this predicament, “We struggle as it is to pay for fuel and commercial vehicle insurance, there doesn’t seem to be any strategy from the council to help local employers in these tough times. Do they honestly expect our heating engineers, plumbers, roofers, tillers, electricians and drainage experts to ride a bike around the town?”

In response, Brighton & Hove Council defend the increase – the first since the parking fee’s introduction ten years ago – saying that it remains excellent value.

It may well be value in their eyes, but, as Elliott Raggio alludes, for businesses like his, the sum of all of the increases faced for businesses in 2012 could mean shedding staff to accommodate them.

All we can suggest is that the fuel and parking fee increases are set in stone, it seems; fleet van insurance is by no means concrete.

Even if the OFT rule in favour of the insurance sector, it is still possible to find cheap fleet van insurance if you shop around. Compare van insurance to get the best deal; for the sake of a few minutes, you could be quids in for years to come.

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