'Not fit for purpose': Scathing attack by Scarborough shopping centre boss on the Yorkshire Coast BID
The manager of Scarborough’s Brunswick shopping centre has called on the Yorkshire Coast Business Improvement District (BID) to give money back to levy payers in a scathing attack on the company.
Sue Anderson Brown, centre manager for the Brunswick Centre, which is home to 30 businesses including Next, Debenhams, Topshop and Toyland, said the BID was not “fit for purpose” and called on it to be disbanded.
The Yorkshire Coast BID has denied the claims and said it is working for the “benefit of the entire coast”.
Mrs Anderson Brown relayed her concerns about the BID to Scarborough borough councillors at a meeting of the authority’s Overview and Scrutiny Board last week.
Speaking afterwards to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, she said that the BID was “simply too big” and was not helping businesses during the pandemic.
The BID is made up of more than 1,300 businesses in the tourism industry, from Staithes in the north to Spurn Point in the south, with a rateable value of more than £12,000, who have to pay a mandatory levy into the BID, calculated at 1.5% of their rateable value.
The 2018 ballot of businesses to create the BID was passed by a margin of 217 in favour with 175 against, on a turnout of just above 29%.
The BID will generate around £5 million in levies over five years, which is then used to promote the coast and support businesses through events, festivals and initiatives.
It has not been without criticism since it came into force. The Yorkshire Coast Levy Payers Association (YCLPA), made up of 400 independent businesses, has campaigned against the BID since it was created.
Mrs Anderson Brown said she had previously been a “passionate supporter” of BIDs elsewhere and had been involved in the formation of similar schemes in York, Bradford and Leeds.
But, in representing 30 levy-paying businesses in the Scarborough shopping centre, she said that the current make-up of the BID was not working.
She said: “Overall the collective view from my levy payers is that there has been a negligible or no real support provided for levy payers throughout this period.”
Mrs Anderson Brown said that it was wrong to assume that if a business paid the mandatory levy it was endorsing the work of the BID.
She added: “The fact is that levy payers, such as those in the Brunswick and the Brunswick itself, pay not because we want to but because we are abiding by the rules as it is a legal requirement.”
The BID company has said that it has deferred levy payments for six months until the end of February 2021 in order to help businesses impacted by the pandemic.
Mrs Anderson Brown, however, said there was a “questionable lack of management effectiveness” from the BID company and called it “out of touch”.
She pointed to a number of open vacancies for directors to join the BID’s board as proof of this.
Mrs Anderson Brown also said that she believed that the area the BID covered made it difficult for it to succeed.
She added: “If there is a fundamental issue it is that this BID does not solely represent Scarborough.”
The Brunswick boss called on the BID to give money back to levy-payers in order to allow businesses to decide how to help themselves.
She said: “There is no offer to refund businesses and there is a failure to grasp the issues for businesses, large and small, high street and national brands, small independents. It is not acceptable to simply defer the levy.
“There needs to be urgent action to look at how money can be refunded back to levy payers.
“[The BID] is not fit for purpose and I would call for it to be terminated.
“It would not be missed, certainly not by my levy payers. I would levy payers are given another vote and asked if they wish the BID to continue in its current form for the foreseeable future.
“It’s nothing personal, I’m passionate about the situation and we need to address the issue, not dance around handbags.”
In response, a BID company spokesman denied that it was not fit for purpose and said it was looking to fill vacant roles on its board.
The spokesman said: “The BID board is representative with directors from across the coastal area.
"Our dedicated directors invest their own time and as business owners in their own right, have the experience and expertise to sit on the board and work together to deliver the BID’s planned programme for the benefit of the entire Yorkshire Coast.
“We are currently in the process of accepting further applications for more directors to join the board and welcome applications.
“We understand the difficulties businesses are facing due to Covid-19, however, the legal process for BID levy collection applies across the whole of the UK and does not currently allow for non-collection or refunds.
“We have worked hard with Scarborough Council to defer the levy contributions to support our valued members.
“We also welcome thoughts on further communication channels we could utilise and how these could be best implemented going forward.”
The BID spokesman said the company has a number of proposals that it was bringing forward to support local firms.
They added: “As an individual, Sue is, of course, entitled her to her own view.
“As detailed [to Scarborough councillors] we have some exciting upcoming plans that will benefit the entire coast and promote, protect and support all the coastal area and each town and village. It is our firm belief that if we work together as one, we will have a far better impact and recovery going forward into 2021 and beyond.”