The team behind the controversial Yorkshire Coast Business Improvement District (BID) has defended the ballot process following complaints from residents and councillors.
The Yorkshire Coast BID team has also said “assumptions” were made by opponents about if and how the 71 votes by local authorities were cast.
Scarborough Council announced last week it was “pausing” its involvement in the scheme until the Secretary of State for Local Government, James Brokenshire MP, had ruled on the legality of the ballot of businesses.
A group of Labour and Independent councillors then 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.
In a compromise, the motion will now be debated at the next meeting of the Full Council on Friday March 1. The group claim the BID does not have the support of businesses as they claim 71 of the 217 votes in favour were cast by Scarborough Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council and North Yorkshire County Council. A further 175 businesses voted against the BID, a turnout of 29%.
Clive Rowe-Evans, chairman of the Yorkshire Coast BID Task Group, said: “The ballot turnout for the Yorkshire Coast BID was not dissimilar to the other destination BIDs around the UK, however, we recognise why this has become a focus of scrutiny.
“The fact is that whilst all eligible businesses were given the opportunity to vote, just like any normal election, people can choose or not, to exercise their right.
“Equally, the local authorities number of votes has become a focus of attention and assumptions have been made that they have all indeed voted and positively, but voter information is protected, so we will not know if what is being published is actually true.
“What is true, is that everyone had the same opportunity to get involved and vote and that this is the biggest opportunity for businesses to demonstrate how they can create a real positive change through working together.”
The BID 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.
Mr Rowe-Evans added: “Yes, it is funded by businesses, but all BID businesses now have a fantastic opportunity to get involved and shape what the Yorkshire Coast BID facilitates over the next five years.”
Scarborough Council leader Cllr Derek Bastiman (Con) last week emailed Mr Rowe-Evans asking him to “pause” progress on the BID.
He said: “The council is concerned that there are a number of businesses, mainly in Whitby, that are unhappy with the way in which the BID has been communicated to businesses, or not communicated, as some are reporting.”