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East Riding Councillors Back BID Investigations

East Riding Councillors Back BID Investigations

Published by Jon Burke at 12:25pm 22nd November 2019.

East Riding of Yorkshire councillors have voted unanimously in favour of supporting an investigation into the ballot process behind the Yorkshire Coast D-BID scheme.

A motion to do so was tabled by Bridlington councillor Andy Walker this week.

Earlier this month, Scarborough borough council agreed to an independent investigation into how the voting was carried out.

In the motion, which was put forward on Wednesday, Councillor Walker said:

"It is challenging to run a business in a coastal community.

As Lord Bassam summed-up in the recent House of Lords report into the plight of seaside towns “One of the key factors for the sustainability of coastal communities is to properly engage with those local businesses” - so it is understandable that Tony Blair’s flagship legislation for Business Improvement Districts seemed like a good idea for the Yorkshire coast. And in 2018 the Yorkshire Coast BID was established by a ballot of councils and businesses. It was clear that the BID company would be funded by a levy on business rates.

Almost a year ago, I was present at the Business Forum meetings at The Spa Bridlington when it became clear that some businesses had not received a ballot paper. Later, it emerged that some businesses who were receiving notices to pay the levy were hearing about the BID for the first time - because they also had not received a ballot paper.. nor had they received the Business Plan.

Through the spring and summer, the levy-payers began to organise and this autumn they conducted a consultation of all businesses liable for the BID Levy. The results are astonishing and I can share a few of the relevant findings:

The consultation used the same list of businesses as the original ballot and received 40% more responses than the original ballot. 447 responses. Of those, more than 50% did not receive a ballot paper.. the majority had not received the Business Plan and 87% want the whole BID scheme to be wound-up. These results are deeply troubling and it is clear that there are hundreds of business men and women who have grave concerns over the ballot process.

The reasons for bringing this motion to council are twofold: this is an unusual BID in that it spans multiple authorities.. Scarborough Borough Council, the lead-authority and in this council, we are responsible for collecting levy-dues and passing those monies on to the BID company. Scarborough Borough Council have kept abreast of the concerns expressed by the Levy Payers and, earlier this month on 4th November, in a motion to their Full Council, resolved to establish an independent and impartial inquiry into the whole BID ballot process.

Without wishing to pre-judge the outcome of that inquiry, this motion offers an opportunity to stand with our business community, to acknowledge that we hear their concerns and to affirm that we support their endeavours through a properly formed and independent inquiry to establish the validity of that ballot.
I commend this motion to council."

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