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Council to be Asked to Launch Vote Investgation

Council to be Asked to Launch Vote Investgation

Published by Matthew Pells with contributions by Local Democracy Reporter Carl Gavaghan at 6:01am 4th November 2019.

Scarborough councillors will today be asked to support an independent investigation into the ballot which led to the creation of the Yorkshire Coast Business Improvement District.

Conservative councillor Alf Abbott, is calling for an investigation into claims that businesses that have to pay into the BID were excluded from the ballot.

More than 1,300 businesses in the tourism industry in Scarborough, Filey, Whitby and Bridlington with a rateable value of more than £12,000 have to pay a mandatory levy into the BID, calculated at 1.5% of their rateable value.

The BID aims to raise around £5m over five years to put back into the communities by way of creating new events, festivals, markets and also by making general improvements and updating infrastructure.

Last year, a ballot of businesses was passed by a margin of 217 in favour with 175 against, on a turnout of just above 29%

However, it later came to light that 71 of the yes votes came from the councils involved in the process, including 38 from Scarborough Council.

In his motion, Cllr Abbott also highlights concerns raised by the Yorkshire Coast Levy Payers Association, made up of businesses that oppose the BID, which claims a number of eligible businesses were not included in the vote.

Cllr Abbott’s motion states:

“In our opinion, it is readily apparent that there exists sufficient evidence casting doubt on the integrity of the ballot process underpinning the establishment of the Yorkshire Coast DBID as to render the council’s involvement unsafe in the present circumstances.”

Scarborough Council is responsible for collecting the levy payments on behalf of the BID company.

Cllr Abbott’s motion adds that a formal consultation with qualifying businesses is being carried out by the Yorkshire Coast Levy Payers Association to determine which ones got to vote.

The motion goes on to say:

“In our opinion, early results demonstrate that a lack of clarity regarding both the definitive geographical boundary of the scheme and the criteria applied to establish which businesses are genuinely tourism-related have resulted in certain qualifying businesses having been omitted from the original ballot, while certain non-qualifiers have been wrongly included.”

Today's motion is being supported by Woodlands Councillor Bill Chatt - who says those opposed to the scheme are asking questions..

An appeal was lodged with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, James Brokenshire MP, but earlier this year he declared that the appeal case was invalid as only 4% of businesses raised the appeal, with 5% needed to trigger the process.

Cllr Abbott’s motion goes on to state that the claims from the opponents are enough to trigger a fresh appeal.

The motion ends:

“I, therefore, propose that in the interests of prudence and good practice, this council instigates an independent and impartial investigation of the legitimacy of the Yorkshire Coast DBID ballot process.”

The Yorkshire Coast Business Improvement District and Scarborough Council have been approached for a comment.



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