Beach Cafe owner Ben Kirkwood is angry over new food inspection fees being charged by the Byron Shire Council.
Beach Cafe owner Ben Kirkwood is angry over new food inspection fees being charged by the Byron Shire Council. David Nielsen

Food fee hard to swallow

BYRON food businesses have slammed a council decision to slug them the highest administration charge allowable under new State legislation as ‘a heavy- handed revenue grab’.

Ben Kirkwood, owner of Byron’s iconic Beach Cafe and chairman of Byron United’s Restaurant and Cafe Group, said food handling bus- inesses in the shire already faced the highest charges in the State.

He said the Byron Shire Council’s decision to slug business the maximum allowable administration charge for food inspection would further hurt the sector.

The Government introduced the new administration charge in July, based on the number of employees, to allow councils to recoup their costs of inspections.

Although it put a ceiling on the amount, it left it to councils to decide what to charge.

What has angered Byron food traders is that the council opted for the highest amount.

“Surely our council wants to encourage small business, not penalise it for the privilege of operating here,” Mr Kirkwood said.

He has written to the council asking what the fees will be used for and why there had been no consultation before the new rates were quietly announced in September.

Mr Kirkwood said the first many businesses knew about it was when they received invoices in September.

“Under the new rate 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,” he said.

The new food inspection fees will affect all food handling businesses, including restaurants, cafes, bottle shops, video stores, pubs and guesthouses.

The council did not respond to a request for comment when contacted on Friday.



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