Following the ‘will they-won’t they’ debacle over beach hut users getting any sort of refund for 2020, we were eventually promised a freeze on our licence fees for 2021.

We were told this had been made possible by beach hut fees being eligible for the 15% reduction in VAT that the government introduced to help businesses through the pandemic in 2020.

Many, understandably, felt this was poor compensation for the weeks of our huts being inaccessible, followed by the lack of toilets when we were allowed to use them again.

Invoices were sent out a couple of weeks ago and, sure enough, the net figure we are being asked to pay has remained the same as 2020.

However, after BCP’s budget for the year had been finalised, the Chancellor announced the 15% reduction in VAT was to be continued.

Instead of passing this reduction on to beach hut users, BCP hiked up the base rate charge for our huts by 14%.

When challenged on this, the response was to explain that they aren’t obliged to pass this VAT reduction on to us, which I understand is true.

They also assert that because they are only obliged to provide the site for our huts, they have done that and we aren’t entitled to any compensation for the time we couldn’t use them.

We are aware that other councils round the country, including New Forest, viewed this differently and have paid refunds.

I am still awaiting a reply from the portfolio holder, Cllr Mohan Iyengar, to my email sent on 11 March.

His reassurance that this increased base rate won’t necessarily remain for future years seems rather hollow.

Because the amount due remains the same, I feel sure many beach hut users won’t have noticed what has happened.

With a windfall of over £160 on the average beach hut, this is a significant sum they have got their sticky hands on.

This behaviour seems rather at odds with the council leader’s declaration that the budget was agreed to keep money in the pockets of local residents.

What a shame we don’t have local elections this year…

Mrs D K Dowsett