BRADFORD Council has been accused of being anti-business after introducing charges for outdoor seating for pubs and cafes.

Wharfedale councillor Jackie Whiteley, who is Conservative spokesperson for Planning and Highways, claims the new charge is a “stealth tax”.

She said: “Bradford Council have thought of another way of raising money at the expense of hospitality businesses in the district and Ilkley will be one of the areas hardest hit.

“This comes on top of the parking fiasco in Ilkley but will also affect the small cafes in Burley and Menston, in fact anywhere, including pubs, that has outside seating.”

The £300 per year charges for outdoor seating licences have been introduced from July 1.

Cllr Whiteley said: “I am amazed that Bradford Council is heaping further financial burdens on business in our area when they have recently invested in the area by buying the Moors Centre. The Council says they want Ilkley and surrounding areas to thrive. I believe the opposite is true. Bradford Council can’t increase council tax by more than 2.99 per cent per annum plus a social care levy of 2 per cent and instead they use stealth taxes to fill their coffers. This Council is anti-business.”

Bradford Council’s portfolio holder for regeneration, planning and transport Cllr Alex Ross-Shaw said they had a statutory duty to manage on-street seating. Every other council in Yorkshire had had the charges for years, he said, and any business operating outside Bradford would be paying for a licence there already.

He added: “We have a fantastic business support offer, in Ilkley alone we offer business rate relief, supported the Business Improvement District with grant funding and just helped facilitate the growth of the Real Food Ilkley market to its new location on The Grove – a move that was opposed by local Conservative councillors despite support from local business.

“This policy is simply about managing obstructions on the highway better so it’s safer for everyone, but particularly people who might have mobility issues or parents with young children who can be severely impacted by cluttered or unsafe pavements.

“It’s a district-wide policy and the fact Cllr Whiteley only talks about Ilkley and Burley shows how little the Conservatives care about what happens in the rest of Bradford district.

“It’s hypocritical of them to complain about seating licenses when they supported banning A-boards across the district, which was done for the same reasons. If they want councils to be able to provide everything for free they shouldn’t have supported an austerity programme that has taken over £270m out of our budget and counting.”