BASILDON Council is “inviting” strip clubs to the town, according to critics, after it emerged it has halved its sex licence fees.
From next month, the Tory administration will charge £1,000, down from £2,000, when granting a licence to sex establishments.
The move makes it the second cheapest in South Essex – and fears have been raised sex clubs could proliferate in the borough.
Basildon Council has insisted a London court ruling dictated the price reduction, but its charge dwarfs Southend’s fee of £6,420.
Byron Taylor, the leader of the opposition Labour party, said: “It makes clear the Conservative vision of Basildon – we are open for business to the sex trade.
“It sends out the message the exploitation of young women for sexual entertainment is acceptable.
“I suspect these companies will act like any other business – they look for location and costs.
Basildon is well located within the South Essex corridor and is now a very cheap place to apply for a licence and to renew it on an annual basis.”
The new charges were approved as part of the council’s 2014/15 budget.
Sex establishments are defined as a sex shop, a sex cinema, or a sexual entertainment venue.
There are two strip clubs in Basildon – Katz, in Time Square, and Mac’s Bar and Cafe, in Paycock Road.
The move comes after Westminster was ordered to change its policy by the Court of Appeal last May. It was told its charges, at nearly £30,000 per licence, were unreasonable.
Councillor David Abrahall, chairman of Basildon’s licensing committee, said: “Our fee setting has to take into consideration relevant case law. The case of Hemming V Westminster City Council is particularly relevant to sex establishment licensing and is one which every local authority will have to have regard to.
“At this stage, we don’t know what impact this change will have on the number of applications we are likely to receive, but the case affects every other local authority, too.
“Any sex establishment has to advertise in the local press and put up site notices to indicate that an application is being submitted and there is the opportunity for people to object.”