Yorkshire DBID accuses Scarborough Council of trying to discredit it over pandemic comments

The company behind the Yorkshire Coast Destination Business Improvement District (DBID) has accused Scarborough Council of trying to “discredit” it following remarks made by councillors at a meeting yesterday.

By Carl Gavaghan, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Wednesday, 22nd July 2020, 9:59 am
Staithes, the most northerly point of the Yorkshire DBID zone.
Staithes, the most northerly point of the Yorkshire DBID zone.

Yorkshire Coast BID, made up of more than 1,300 businesses in the tourism industry from Staithes in the north to Spurn Point in the south, came in for criticism from the borough council’s cabinet, which accused the company of not doing enough to support businesses through the pandemic.

One councillor called the DBID “untenable” while deputy leader Cllr Liz Colling asked for it to defer payments of the levy element of the scheme, in which a business with a rateable value of more than £12,000 pay a fee calculated at 1.5% of their rateable value, for the next 12 months.

In response, the DBID company says it has pushed for changes to regulations that would allow it to offer up to 100% relief from the levy to businesses and, in letters seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, wrote to Scarborough Council chief executive Mike Greene last month asking the council to support its lobbying of the Government.

In a lengthy statement, Yorkshire Coast BID sought to address a number of the claims made during the cabinet meeting and said its attempts to work with the council had been dismissed.

The statement said: “Yorkshire Coast BID is extremely disappointed in Scarborough Borough Council’s decision to publicly discredit the BID in a recent meeting, especially after ignoring numerous attempts to work together.

“This is especially frustrating and counterproductive as the BID is working effectively and positively with other councils and representatives up and down the coast, on our programme to protect and promote the entire region to drive economic recovery.”

The statement added that there were a number of “inaccuracies” raised by the councillors.

On the issue of levy payments, the statement said: “We understand the difficulties businesses are facing due to Covid-19, however, the legal process for BID levy collection, applied across the whole of the UK does not currently allow for non-collection.

“As the BID cannot legally collect the levy, we wrote to Scarborough Borough Council as the collection authority, to work with them to investigate if there could be a suitable solution for delaying August’s levy contribution as we understand the statutory position, they are in.

“In collaboration with other BIDs nationally, and independently, we also wrote to the government on this matter.

“For clarity, Scarborough Borough Council, has not worked with us to find a solution, and therefore they will legally have to issue levy bills in August.

“We are also awaiting further information from Scarborough Borough Council on the acceptance of a six-month deferral for recovery if they issue the levy bills, to allow us additional time to continue our representation to government.”

Councillors also criticised the plans, or lack of, from the company to aid in the borough’s recovery from the pandemic.

On this, the company said: “Now more than ever, the BID’s role is vital in ensuring our work continues with the planning of quality and standout initiatives for immediate rollout that will support the economic recovery for the amazing coastal community and its hardworking businesses.

“During lockdown, it was not appropriate to announce our flagship promote projects, the first of which, designed to attract more visitors to stay for longer and support business recovery, will be announced in the next two weeks.

“It is our duty to ensure that all funds are used responsibly and represent the needs of the whole coast in the interest of all our levy businesses.

“This meant that we could not justify spending a large and disproportionate amount of the budget, as requested by Scarborough Borough Council, however, we did offer an amount towards signage and sanitiser units in Scarborough which was not accepted.

“The BID has also supported a number of initiatives during Covid-19, examples include: ShopAppy activation to support local businesses trade online with a delivery service so businesses closed during Covid-19 did not lose out to large national buying platforms, Savings Advisory Service which provides cost-saving initiative for business members, now including PPE, safe footfall generating activity in the form of MonsterHero Safari and community support activities to help provide vital aid to local people, such as; the Withernsea bike scheme.

“Every organisation has a part to play in helping areas and businesses recover and despite the recent statements, we remain thankful to the officers at Scarborough Borough Council who have facilitated the paying of government grants to businesses within the borough.

“Yorkshire Coast BID, as a private company, will continue to work in partnership with its members and local authorities, to promote, protect and support the Yorkshire Coast and surrounding villages for the benefit of all its members, residents and visitors to the area. It is our view that the work we do should be balanced and benefit the entire Yorkshire coast.

“We hope that Scarborough Borough Council recognises in time that there is room within any area and beyond borough boundaries, for the private sector to play a positive role within their community via a Business Improvement District rather than seeking ways to discredit an entity which they helped create.

“We are excited to announce our flagship initiatives, when appropriate to do so and it is our wish to work in partnership with all stakeholders to cement the region’s recovery."