Â£5 million plan to boost Scarborough economy... but businesses have to fund it themselves
A ballot of more than 1,300 businesses in the tourism and retail industries from Staithes to Spurn Point is to be held in a bid to bring prosperity and money into the coastal economy.
The Yorkshire Coast Business Improvement District (BID) aims to raise more than Â£5 million over five years to put back into the communities by way of creating new events, festivals, markets and general improvements and infrastructure.
The backers say it will also help to promote the individual towns and the Yorkshire Coast as a whole.
However, the way the scheme will be funded has already drawn some concern.
Every retail, leisure, accommodation and food and drink organisation with a rateable value of Â£12,000 and above would have to pay into a mandatory levy, which would be calculated at 1.5% of that value.
For example, a business with a rateable value of Â£12,000 would pay Â£180 a year for five years.
Businesses would still pay business rates alongside the new levy.
Before the BID, which is backed by Scarborough Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council can come into effect a month-long postal vote of the 1,300 businesses will be held through November, with ballots arriving on Thursday.
The BID team must secure more than 50% of the businesses to vote in favour. Also, the total rateable value of those who vote ‘yes’ must exceed that of the ‘no’ votes.
If approved, money collected would be put into a pot and projects will be devised between the partner groups and business as to what it should be spent on.
Originally, the plan was for Redcar and Saltburn to be included as part of the bid area.
However, Redcar and Cleveland Council withdrew its support for the scheme earlier this year. Councillors on the authority had raised concerns about forcing businesses that voted against the BID to pay the levy.
Figures from the BID team show that businesses in Scarborough town on their own would contribute more than Â£2.36 million of the Â£5.4m raised over the five-year period. The next highest contributor would be Bridlington with Â£850,000.
Whitby would contribute Â£763,000 an Filey Â£222,000.
John Senior, chairman of Scarborough’s South Bay Traders Association, said that he was in favour of the BID.
He said: “It’s just self help, there is no budget for tourism and we are getting no help from the Government so we need to do it ourselves.”
He said that some members of the association had raised concerns over paying the levy.
He added: “Some of the big rateable businesses were concerned about having to pay again, which is understandable.
“Everyone gets a vote and they can vote yes or no.
“I think we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t but I do think we have to take matters into our own hands here.”
Clive Rowe-Evans from the Yorkshire Coast BID Task Group said the BID represents “an exciting opportunity to future proof the Yorkshire Coast for years to come”.
The BID team has earmarked Â£1.5m to be used to promote the coast nationally, with a further Â£200,000 each to improve the visual appearance of the area, champion green initiatives and offer support to businesses.
The ballots have gone out to all those who would be eligible for the levy.
The closing date for ballots is November 29 and the result will be announced the following day.