This is why Scarborough Council will set up independent investigation into controversial DBID

Scarborough Town Hall. Picture by Richard Ponter.Scarborough Town Hall. Picture by Richard Ponter.
Scarborough Town Hall. Picture by Richard Ponter.
Scarborough Council is to set up an independent investigation into its role in the creation of the controversial Yorkshire Coast Destination Business Improvement District (DBID) last year.

Councillors heard that a number of businesses had great concerns about the vote that led to the founding of the DBID, with many claiming the ballot process was flawed.

Cabinet member Cllr Liz Colling (Lab) said it was “only right” that as the council had provided a list of businesses to the DBID company to decide who qualified for the ballot that its role was put under scrutiny.

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Cllr Colling said: “I absolutely agree that the council should be open to scrutiny and examination of its role in the ballot process and I do recognise that businesses do have some legitimate concerns that require answers about what happened prior to November 2018.”

She added that the council would ask its chief executive Michael Greene to find and task someone who had no previous connection to the authority to carry out the investigation.

The DBID is made up of more than 1,300 businesses in the tourism industry from Staithes in the north to Spurn Point in the south with a rateable value of more than £12,000 have to pay a mandatory levy into the DBID, calculated at 1.5% of their rateable value.

Last year, a ballot of businesses was passed by a margin of 217 in favour with 175 against, on a turnout of just above 29%.

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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. A number of businesses have since claimed they did not receive ballot papers.

Today, the Yorkshire Coast Levy Payers Association (YCLPA), made up of businesses that oppose the DBID, claimed that at least 251 businesses did not get ballot papers after it wrote to all those who should have received a vote to see if they were consulted.

A motion had been put forward at today’s full council meeting by Conservative Cllr Alf Abbott and by Cluster of Independent Members leader Cllr Bill Chatt calling for an investigation but, instead, an amended motion was accepted from Cllr Colling after members were told the council could not legally compel the DBID company to take part.

The council will now be part of an investigation into its own role and will “urge” the DBID company to take part in the process.

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Scarborough Council is responsible for collecting the levy payments on behalf of the DBID company but councillors were told that it would be “illegal” for the collection process to be paused.

Cllr Subash Sharma (Lab) said that residents in his ward had contacted him ask why they were having to pay the new levy.

He said: “I have a funeral director, a post office and a launderette wondering why they have to pay.”

Cluster of Independent member Cllr Mike Cockerill said that he’d been given a list of addresses businesses in Filey which were part of the vote.

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He said: “Regrettably, I can categorically state that with regards to Filey that not all the addresses on that list were correct and I can also state that not all of the addresses on that list relate to businesses that were trading at the time of the vote.

“Consequently, I remain to be convinced that the process used was complete or accurate. These uncertainties need to be addressed.”

The DBID aims to raise around £5m over five years to put back into the communities by way of creating new events, festivals, markets and also by making general improvements and updating infrastructure.

No timetable has been given for when the investigation is likely to be completed.

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Clive Rowe-Evans, chairman , Yorkshire Coast BID said: “The ballot was run independently of the BID by the returning officer at Scarborough Borough Council.

“An appeal submission against the ballot has already been ruled as invalid by the Secretary of State, and we welcome this investigation and are confident that it will show that it was run in full compliance with the BID Regulations of 2004.”