A Scarborough councillor has called on the authority to “honour its commitment” to addressing the concerns of local businesses about the Yorkshire Coast Business Improvement District (BID).
Independent Cllr Michelle Donohue-Moncrieff says the council should abide by the terms of a motion passed in March saying that it would “consider its position alongside the business community” if an appeal to the secretary of state to void the BID ballot failed.
The BID aims to raise around £5m over five years to put back into the communities by way of creating new events, festivals and markets and also by making general improvements and updating infrastructure.
The BID group's first project is set to be a coastal route: see HERE about the idea
The first bills for the mandatory levy went out on August 1. More than 1,300 businesses from Staithes to Spurn Point with a rateable value of more than £12,000 will face the new charge, calculated at 1.5 per cent of their rateable value.
The issue for a number of businesses with the BID was the ballot held last year, in which approval for the project was passed by a margin of 217 in favour with 175 against, on a turnout of just above 29 per cent.
However, it later came to light that 71 of the yes votes came from the councils involved in the process, including 38 from Scarborough Council.
Cllr Donohue-Moncrieff now wants the council to listen to the concerns of businesses.
She said: “It has been clear since the beginning that local businesses have not been provided with enough information by the Yorkshire Coast BID prior to the flawed ballot that was only passed because councils cast votes in favour.
“Despite assurances at the March 1 Council meeting, there has been no consultation with local businesses as promised.
“Worse still, many local businesses only found out about the Yorkshire Coast BID when the bill came through the post.
“In March we were clearly told that if the appeal failed, Scarborough would work with businesses to address their concerns. That was the basis of the vote by councillors.
“Why has it not happened? This is a clear breach of trust and the cabinet member responsible, Cllr Liz Colling, has a duty to ensure that all affected tourism businesses are given a fair hearing whether they are for or against the BID.”
An appeal by businesses was lodged with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire MP, but earlier this year he declared that the appeal case is invalid as only 4% of businesses raised the appeal, with 5% needed to trigger the process.
Following the decision a number of business owners continued to oppose the creation of the BID with claims that up to 90 businesses in Whitby alone will refuse to pay the levy, forcing Scarborough Council as the collecting authority to take them to court to recover the money.
When pressed in July by councillors on the legal standing of the BID, Cllr Colling (Lab) told a meeting of the full council that the authority legally had to follow through with its obligations to proceed with the scheme.
She said: “Following concerns raised by businesses the council was invited to review all the consultation data and is satisfied that the BID company has fulfilled its statutory obligations.”
Over the last week, meetings have been held in Whitby and Scarborough by the Yorkshire Coast Levy Payers’ Association, which opposes the project and is trying to organise a second vote on whether businesses back the BID.