Yorkshire coast DBID: 'Levy on businesses should be suspended during coronavirus outbreak'

The Yorkshire Coast Business Improvement District (BID) has been called on to follow the government’s lead and suspend collecting its levy during the coronavirus outbreak.

Thursday, 12th March 2020, 1:24 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th March 2020, 3:36 pm

Graham Collinson, a member of the Yorkshire Coast Levy Payers Association (YCLPA) which opposes the BID, said that all payments should be shut to help out those dealing with possible fallout from the pandemic.

The call comes less than 24 hours after Chancellor Rishi Sunak used the budget to announce business rates will be suspended for 12 months for leisure, retail and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000.

The Yorkshire Coast BID collects a 1.5% levy from more than 1,300 tourism-related businesses from Staithes to Spurn Point with a rateable value of £12,000 and above.

Scarborough Town Hall

Mr Collinson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service the BID should also look to help those businesses most likely to be impacted by the outbreak.

He said: “If the BID company wants to support businesses, and we are told that is what it was set up to do, then it should at a minimum suspend the levy.”

Mr Collinson, who runs Discovery Accommodation in Whitby, said his business was trying to prepare for the summer season “if there is one” and that the levy relief would be welcomed.

On Wednesday night, Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) published the results of the Association of Electoral Administrators (AEA) review into its role of the 2018 BID ballot, the validity of which has been called into question by a number of the YCLPA.

The report by AEA chief executive Peter Stanyon found flaws with the ballot process concluded that “on the evidence presented to me I am satisfied that the ballot process was generally undertaken in accordance with the process prescribed by the [BID] regulations”.

He said he had concerns that the guidance, support and advice given to the council by Mosaic Partnership, which helped develop the BID, was “not as thorough” as required to help the election team, which had never run a BID ballot before.

Mr Stanyon adds that the council could have looked to outsource the ballot to a company with more knowledge of the regulations and also criticises the decision to send ballots addressed to “the owner/occupier” and not named individuals.

He concluded, however, that there is nothing in the regulations allowing for a re-ballot to be held.

See HERE for more on Mr Stanyon's findings.

Hero Sumner, who runs the Moon and Balloon in Whitby and is a member of the YCLPA, said that despite this, she felt the council owed it to businesses to conduct a fresh ballot.

She added: “The people with the most to gain were advising the council, that’s where the moral judgement needs to come in.

“Scarborough Council needs to put its hands up and say ‘we haven’t done this thoroughly and correctly and we are imposing something on businesses that they were not aware of do not want’.

“I think they have a moral duty to run the ballot again.”

Following the publication of the report, Cllr Liz Colling, Scarborough Council cabinet member for inclusive growth, said the BID company now needed to engage with businesses.

She said: “While it is clear that the overall process could have been improved, ultimately, we did follow the regulations and there were no irregularities. We can learn lessons though.

“The legislation for business improvement districts provides no realistic option for us to start again, so now is the time for us to embrace the opportunities presented by the BID.

“I urge the BID company to begin meaningful engagement with the business community so momentum and work to date is not lost.”

A spokesman for the Yorkshire Coast BID said: “Following yesterday’s Budget announcement, Yorkshire Coast BID is pleased to see that the government has introduced measures to assist small businesses across the UK.

“While we support this news, we believe that it is now more important than ever for Member businesses within the BID to continue to work together during this period of uncertainty.

“We will continue to closely monitor the situation and communicate any developments directly with our members.”

More than 300 companies across the Scarborough borough have yet to pay the mandatory levy, the council revealed last month.