THE STORY of the five year old child who was fined by Tower Hamlets Council for running a lemonade stall outside her home has gone around the world. The little girl set up her stall on the route taken by people going from the Tube station to the Lovebox festival in Victoria Park.
However, life isn’t always as rosy as an HSBC advert. Local enforcement officers shut down the stall – and fined the little girl (or, technically, her father) for running a stall without a licence. They had a point. There is a reason for licenses: so local regulators can ensure food hygiene standards are applied and that food vendors are insured. However, the officers could have been more tactful in their approach.
To his credit, the child’s father has kept the matter in proportion. He has declined the job offers from companies that are said to have flooded in – from companies keen to exploit child labour, presumably. He has also refused to pass a description of the enforcement officers on to Piers Morgan so that the journalist can personally ride his white horse on a crusade against these officers in total disregard of the fact they were acting as employees, not individuals.
The Council has written to the family to apologise for the fact that their officers did not apply common sense when issuing the Fixed Penalty Notice. Otherwise, what is remarkable is John Biggs’s Administration’s complete silence on the matter. There is no press release expressing regret or explaining to voters how the mistake came about.
It is in the face of this wall of silence that Cllr Maium Miah, the Independent Councillor who represents Canary Wharf ward, has put a formal enquiry into the Council. Cllr Miah is asking the Council to explain:
why the fine was issued; and
whether the Council has a policy on fining children.
Cllr Miah also wants to know who was behind the Council’s letter of apology to the family – whether Mayor John Biggs wrote the letter or whether it was sent by officers.
“This episode is disgraceful,” said Cllr Miah. “When John Biggs told us at the last Council meeting that he was employing 14 new police officers to lead a crackdown on Anti-Social Behaviour in the Borough, we thought he might be tackling knife crime and drug pushers. We didn’t realise he was after the five year olds.”