Scarborough Council suspends its work on £5million Business Improvement District project

Scarborough Council has suspended its involvement in the controversial scheme.
Scarborough Council has suspended its involvement in the controversial scheme.

Scarborough Council has suspended its involvement in the controversial Yorkshire Coast Destination Business Improvement District (DBID).

The authority voted today to step back from the scheme until the legality of a ballot of businesses had been ruled on by the Secretary of State for Local Government James Brokenshire MP.

A group of Labour and Independent councillors tabled a motion to suspend the authority’s involvement in any BID for five years.

At today’s full council meeting the councillors instead voted in favour of an amendment by Conservative Cllr John Nock that will see the council suspend its involvement until a ruling is made. Once a ruling is received the council, alongside the concerned businesses, will then look at what options are then open to them.

The DBID aims to raise more than £5 million over five years to put back into the communities by way of creating new events, festivals, markets and general improvements and infrastructure.

But a number of businesses expressed concerns about how the money will be raised via a mandatory levy on every retail, leisure, accommodation and food and drink organisation with a rateable value of £12,000 and above.

These businesses, from Staithes in the north to Spurn Point in the south, would have to pay into the levy, which would be calculated at 1.5% of that value.

The ballot of businesses was passed by a margin of 217 voted for to 175 against. However, it has since come to light that 71 of the yes votes came from the councils involved in the process.

Today, Labour Cllr Paul Cross said there was a lot of feeling against the DBID in his Scarborough town centre ward.

He said: “A lot of businesses in my ward are affected, just this morning I had a call from a business saying this would be detrimental to them. I see it as just another tax on businesses at a time when they can’t afford it.”

Cabinet member Cllr Sandra Turner (Con) said she supported the motion against the DBID, which she said was a private enterprise and not a council initiative.

Cllr Turner said she had attended two meetings in Whitby where very strong feelings against the proposal had been aired.

She added: “Serious concerns have been raised that some of those businesses have not been contacted at all [during the ballot]

“It’s a very serious position to be in. Many businesses are against the consultation process. Some of them said this is the straw that broke the camel’s back and I support the motion to suspend the involvement and support those businesses.”

Cllr David Chance (Con) said he was uneasy about the vote.

“This DBID will run from Staithes through into East Yorkshire,” he said.

“When you look at the numbers 217 voted for this and 175 against. It then comes out that 71 votes were from councils, we ourselves had 38 votes. When you take that out the DBID fails by 29 votes. It is clear that trade did not vote for this.”

Independent Cllr Michelle Donohue-Moncrieff added: “We gave money to the ballot, we voted and swayed the vote. We voted yes, SBC’s fingerprints are all over this. Businesses don’t want this, business don’t need this.”

Cllr’s Nock amendment was approved following a vote.

He said he the original motion to stop involvement in any BID for five years would not be legal as it would bind two future administrations hands if a new BID ever came forward that did have more support.

Carl Gavaghan , Local Democracy Reporting Service