Scarborough Council is facing mounting pressure to withdraw its involvement from the controversial Yorkshire Coast Destination Business Improvement District (DBID).
The council announced last week it was “pausing” its involvement in the scheme until the Secretary of State for Local Government, James Brockenshire MP, had ruled on the legality of the ballot of businesses.
Now, a group of Labour and Independent councillors have called on the Mayor to hold an Extraordinary Meeting of the council to debate a motion to suspend the authority’s involvement in any BID for five years.
The DBID aims to raise more than £5 million over five years to put back into the communities by way of creating new events, festivals, markets and general improvements and infrastructure.
But a number of businesses expressed concerns about how the money will be raised via a mandatory levy on every retail, leisure, accommodation and food and drink organisation with a rateable value of £12,000 and above.
These businesses, from Staithes in the north to Spurn Point in the south, would have to pay into the levy, which would be calculated at 1.5% of that value.
The ballot of businesses was passed by a margin of 217 voted for to 175 against. However, it has since come to light that 71 of the yes votes came from the councils involved in the process.
The motion for the meeting has been proposed by Cllr Sam Cross (Ind) and seconded by Cllr Norman Murphy (Ind).
Labour councillors Tony Randerson and Rob Barnett, along with independent Jonathan Dodds make up the five.
In a joint statement, they said: “Public authority stakeholders Scarborough Borough Council (SBC), North Yorkshire County Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council collectively cast 71 votes [in favour].
“Self-evidently, without the public authority votes, the proposal would have been soundly defeated by 175 against versus only 146 for.
“Thus, business proprietors’ electoral rejection of the DBID can be seen to have been rebutted only by the inclusion of the 71 public authority votes.
“Many of SBC’s 32 for votes were cast on behalf of unoccupied properties held in public ownership, freehold, by the council (car parks, public toilets, etc) by a presently unidentified individual.
“Where is the democracy? Where is the transparency? Where is the accountability?
“Clearly, the very fact that it was the public authority vote that secured ratification contravenes the widely-proclaimed DBID premise that the DBID is ‘business-driven’.
“Also clear is the fact that – and this is apparent from public meetings and direct communication with business proprietors – the level of objection to the terms of the DBID amounts almost to unanimity amongst business proprietors who face the imposition of the levy.”
Scarborough Council has not yet confirmed if the extraordinary meeting will be granted.