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Appeal Launched Against Yorkshire Coast BID

Yorkshire Coast BID - Vote YES!

Published by the Yorkshire Coast Radio News Team at 6:03am 11th January 2019.

An appeal has been launched to the Business Secretary, for a judicial review into the Yorkshire Coast's Business Improvement District (BID.)

The BID aims to deliver £5million of new projects into the Yorkshire Coast to boost things like visitor numbers and footfall. Funding would come from eligible local businesses paying 1.5% of their rateable value to the BID each year.

For the Business Improvement District to be created it had to be approved by those eligible business in a vote which took place in November.

217 businesses voted in favour of the BID, with 175 voting against.

Now, an appeal has been launched by the Whitby Business Group. In the letter to Business Secretary, Greg Clark, it outlines its concerns from the Whitby area as:

  • "Despite members of Scarborough Borough Council being present at the meeting, it was not possible to ascertain any transparency with regards to how they had been included in the ballot and voting procedure - i.e. there were ‘to the  best of their knowledge’ 37 hereditaments ‘owned’ by the Borough included in  the BID area.  The councillors were not aware of any democratic process by which they had been given an opportunity to vote at full council or to consult the public.  They said were not at liberty to reveal the outcomes of any such votes, nor the totals of ‘aggregate’ that formed the final outcome of the ballot.
  • It was felt that there had been insufficient engagement with the business community in the Whitby area which had resulted in unfair representation in the ballot. 
  • Persons entitled to vote had been prevented from doing so as a result of both the lack of engagement and the lack of understanding on the part of businesses responsible for paying the levy on multiple properties but who only received single voting slips. 
  • The timing of the consultation process was considered to be unfairly ‘weighted in favour of the BID’  as it took place during peak tourist season when many of the people qualifying to vote for the BID were either unaware of it or unable to spend the necessary time to make sure they were au fait with its contents
  • Many businesses were simply not contacted at all in respect of the BID.  This was unacceptable and blamed on a lack of letter boxes in a radio interview held by a representative of the BID.  As a business community we found this particularly hard to accept.  We believe that a list of the eligible businesses would be quite simple to compile from the information held by the District Valuer or Scarborough Borough who collect our rates and who may be responsible for collecting the levy.  Surely a simple letter sent to wherever they send their rates demands would have been enough to at least inform us that the process was occurring.
  • The involvement of Scarborough Borough Council and the way in which it operated the ballot has raised many concerns about the process of democracy/transparency and the handling of information
  • The BID had been unanimously rejected by a meeting of Whitby Town Council .   Redcar, Cleveland and Teeside rejected the BID before it even came to ballot.  The Borough Council (i.e. Scarborough) has subsequently excused itself from undergoing the same process of democracy with the implication being that it is of a higher authority and therefore subject to a different set of rules

In our opinion the above points constitute a fundamental failure of the ballot process and that there are material irregularities in the way it has been operated. As such, we would like to appeal to you to undertake a judicial review of the BID process in respect of the Yorkshire Coast Destination BID."

Hero Sumner is part of the Whitby Business Group, she said:

"If you look at somewhere like Hexham for instance further up the coastline, they actually overturned their BID simply by refusing to pay because there was no way in a million years that any council was going to be able to take all those businesses to court. 

They've been very, very supportive."

On the claims businesses who were eligible of casting more than one vote but never received more than one ballot paper, Hero adds:

"It would be like, say you have a household of four people, all over the age of 18 and entitled to vote, but just telling one person in that household 'you're entitled to vote but you've got to vote on behalf of everyone else and you only get one vote.'"

The team behind the BID have confirmed to Yorkshire Coast Radio that Scarborough Borough Council did qualify for 38 votes.

In an email the BID team say that..

"The Ballot was independently carried out by Scarborough Borough Council and a ballot paper was sent to every single qualifying business in accordance with the BID Regulations of 2004."

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