Scarborough Council vote for 'speedy closure' of controversial Yorkshire Coast Business Improvement District

Scarborough Council has passed a motion of no confidence in the Yorkshire Coast Business Improvement District’s governance arrangements and has called for its “speedy closure”.

By Anttoni James Numminen, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Friday, 29th July 2022, 12:24 pm

Elected members of the authority voted almost unanimously in favour of passing a motion of no confidence in the Yorkshire Coast BID’s governance arrangements at a full meeting of Scarborough Council on Thursday July 28.

At a heated meeting of the authority, councillors debated various amendments to the no-confidence motion before it was passed, with members of the public filling the viewing gallery, occasionally contributing with loud cheers.

The motion passed by councillors included a resolution to "work with the BID to bring about its speedy closure".

The BID has been heavily criticised by businesses across Scarborough.

Despite the motion being passed, the council is not able to directly influence the BID’s future.

Responding to the council’s decision, the chair of the BID, Clive Rowe-Evans, said the motion had “been largely strong-armed by a select number of businesses in the area” and that some of the “evidence presented in the lead up to the decision has not been accurate and reflective of the work that has been delivered”.

“We’ve been saddened to witness some of the behaviour which a number of our staff and directors have also been subject to”, he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Yorkshire Coast BID Ltd was established as a private, not-for-profit company governed by a board of volunteer directors who represent independent, national and public sector operators.

Businesses packed into the gallery to hear the meeting.

Many businesses have criticised the scheme, which sought to raise around £5m through a business levy, with plans to put the money back into the communities by way of creating new events and festivals.

The 1.5 per cent mandatory levy affects every retail, leisure, accommodation and food and drink organisation with a rateable value of £12,000 and above in the YCBID area, which runs from Staithes in the north to Spurn Point in East Riding at its southern point.

The Yorkshire Coast BID was originally approved in 2018 with votes from Scarborough Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

Controversially, both councils were able to vote as their car parks and public toilets counted as businesses and without their votes the BID proposal would have been defeated.

Scarborough Council has passed a no confidence vote in BID, but it cannot determine the company's future.

Spending concerns

The original motion at Thursday’s meeting was tabled by Cllr Bill Chatt, who had to pause the presentation of his motion to allow the Mayor to deal with a member of the public who had unfurled a banner in the public gallery.

Responding to the first amendment, Cllr Chatt said: “I am going to say what I would have said, had I been allowed to discuss my motion because I think it is only fair and relevant to what we are discussing now.”

He added: “So if you want to stop me, please get one of your guys to drag me out because that is the only way I’m going to stop.”

The BID was controversially approved in 2018, with decisive votes from two councils.

In his speech, Cllr Chatt raised concerns about the spending and governance of the BID: “How great it is if I can get Scarborough Council’s legal position to drag money out of these poor people’s pockets… there are no GoodFellas here, Mr Mayor, they are all bad ones.”

However, Mr Rowe-Evans said: “Some of the figures quoted and the evidence presented in the lead-up to the decision has not been accurate and reflective of the work that has been delivered by the Yorkshire Coast BID over the last three years.

“In the last three years, we’ve invested £489,000 back into Scarborough, Whitby, Filey and surrounding villages on a number of different initiatives, all to promote, protect and support local businesses.

“We support grassroots projects like Scarborough Stories which has sought to empower individuals to grow and share their work and passion for the town. Projects such as this give a voice to the next generation of entrepreneurs and creatives.”

'Get the support, or get out of town'

Cllr John Nock proposed a second amendment that the council also call for the closure of the BID, which was eventually approved by a majority of the councillors present at the meeting.

Councillors unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in the BID tourism company.

Speaking before the second amendment was approved, Cllr Heather Phillips said: “Support the levy payers and let us help them find a way out of this.”

Cllr Michelle Donohue-Moncrieff said that in 2018 councillors did not have a say on the authority’s support for creating the BID: “There never was an explicit mandate to cast those ballots for or against. Councils should not be casting ballots in BID votes. Either it is business-led or it is not.”

She added that the BID needed the support of businesses if it wanted to continue: “Get the support, or get out of town.”

Mr Rowe-Evans added: “As a region, we all want to strive towards the same common goal – to support the success of the Yorkshire Coast and better it for future generations – and this is something we should be delivering together, as a united community.

“We’re incredibly proud of our involvement in such a wide range of different projects which showcase and highlight the cultural offering available across the different coastal towns and will continue our work supporting all those levy payers who have backed the BID until at least July 2024.

“This will not distract us from promoting and protecting Scarborough, Whitby, Filey and all the villages in-between as part of our wonderful coastal area.”

Following approval of Cllr Nock’s amendment, the council moved directly to a vote on the motion itself which was passed almost unanimously by those present at the meeting.

A total of 10 councillors sent their apologies and did not attend the meeting, including two who said they could not attend due to “prejudicial interests in the matter”.