Pet shop boss says officials turn up ‘mob handed’ whilst council apologises for payment mix up but say paperwork outstanding

Rob Phipps.

Rob Phipps. - Credit: Archant

Pet shop boss Rob Phipps claims council officials, including an enforcement officer, turned up “mob handed” to check he was licensed to sell animals – three weeks after he had paid it.

Cllr Jan French

Cllr Jan French - Credit: Archant

But the council has hit back, apologising for the “mix up” over payment but stating that Mr Phipps is yet to complete the forms.

A council spokesman said: “Despite several reminders, we have still not received the completed form.

“Once we do, we will be able to process his licence request. We are happy to give him any help he needs to complete the form.”

Mr Phipps, who’s JJ Pet Rescue which was run from a separate unit was closed down last month by council officials and the RSPCA, described the visit “as a bit of a coincidence”.

He has now taken his complaint to March councillor Jan French who had already called for an inquiry into closure of the pet rescue centre run from Commercial Road, March.

Mr Phipps said the council officials turned up to his Station Road shop last Thursday and says he was surprised to see them.

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“I had paid for the licence at the council’s own one-stop shop at the end of February and luckily I had the receipt to hand to prove it,” he said.

“When I told them I had paid it they insinuated I was a liar but once I produced it they left quite sharpish. They were far from apologetic and I did wonder why a simple phone call might have been better.”

He said he paid both this year’s licence and last year’s at the same time – a total of £140. He says he would have paid last year’s earlier but the council had combined both its environmental health and licensing teams which had led to some confusion.

“It seemed odd to me three people should turn up,” he said. “We’re none of us perfect but surely computers should have sorted this. There was nothing on their computer to say I had paid on February 26.”

A Fenland Council spokesman said: “We have been in touch with Mr Phipps since the end of January, advising him to submit an application for a pet shop licence, which is a legal requirement. Currently the shop has not got one.

“To get a licence, Mr Phipps has to complete the necessary application form and pay the licence fee.

“He has now paid the fee and we have apologised to him for the mix-up over that.”

Cllr French said she had raised the issue of the visit to Mr Phipps with the council’s chief executive Paul Medd and had been promised an investigation.

“They could have phoned Mr Phipps,” she said. “The public perception looks as if Fenland Council is intimidating him.”

Two days earlier Cllr French had sent an email to Mr Medd questioning the enforcement procedures which led to JJ Rescue being closed and over 40 dogs removed.

“The way this exercise was carried out by Fenland Council has the community of March up in arms,” she told the chief executive. She said no proper no proper notice or timescale was given.

Cllr French said the RSPCA allege they only took the dogs after Fenland Council had intervened. She said it was accepted the unit did not have planning permission “but they should have had the chance like everyone else to apply for retrospective permission. It certainly does not look like fair play on behalf of the council.”

Cllr French also told the chief executive she had heard “rumours that certain councillors put pressure on the officers to act outside the procedure. I would be obliged if I could have some answers.”