Councillor Adam Hug, leader of Westminster City Council, has urged the central government to provide greater support in tackling the increasing number of “American candy” stores on London’s Oxford Street. These unlicensed shops, which currently owe more than £9 million in unpaid business rates, have become a concerning problem for the West End and wider London.

During a council meeting, Hug emphasized the need for swift intervention from the government to address this issue. He argued that as the economic crime bill progresses through parliament, there is a strong case for increased corporate transparency and accountability, ultimately benefiting businesses and the economy as a whole.

Hug stressed the importance of empowering enforcement agencies with the tools necessary to combat unlawful practices by these businesses. The council intends to enhance its collaboration with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the National Crime Agency to put an end to these unlicensed stores. Additionally, Hug has been successful in engaging with landlords on Oxford Street, urging them not to lease their properties to these candy stores. He firmly believes that supporting such businesses goes against the best interests of the community.

The rise of these candy stores is seen as a symptom of a deeper issue within the UK economy. Hug insists that addressing the problem requires a comprehensive approach that not only focuses on enforcement but also tackles underlying economic factors.

Over the past 15 months, the council has managed to recover £1 million worth of items from these stores, including counterfeit products and potentially hazardous goods. This highlights the urgent need to take action against these businesses to ensure consumer protection. However, despite these efforts, the Westminster City Council reports that 27 of these illicit candy stores are still operating.

It remains to be seen how the central government will respond to the call for assistance. In the meantime, Hug and the council will continue their relentless efforts to crack down on these unlicensed businesses, striving to create a safer and more prosperous environment for the community.

Useful links:
1. HM Revenue and Customs
2. National Crime Agency