Scarborough councillors have questioned how a Yorkshire Coast Destination Business Improvement District (DBID) is going to benefit towns in the Scarborough borough.
At a briefing at Scarborough Town Hall today members of the BID team updated councillors on the project, which 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.
However, a number of businesses have 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 would have to pay into the levy, which would be calculated at 1.5% of that value.
A number of businesses in Whitby have written to James Brokenshire MP, the Secretary of State for Local Government, asking him to set aside the result of the public vote last year that approved the BID.
Speaking today, Cllr Sandra Turner (Con) who represents Whitby on the borough council, said that many businesses were not happy.
She said: “A lot of businesses have told me that they are not going to pay. I don’t think it is right that people should pay for something that they do not want.
“A number of businesses have said that they were not consulted on during the process. A number of businesses are telling me they feel the BID area is too large.”
The BID area will run from Staithes in the north to Spun Point in East Riding at its southern point.
BID chairman Clive Rowe-Evans said that more than 1,300 businesses were sent the summary business plan and the final business plan.
He told Cllr Turner that as Scarborough Borough Council was being paid by the BID team to be a collection authority then it would be up to it to decide what it would do if people refused to pay the levy.
Other councillors also had concerns.
Cllr Steve Siddons (Lab) said: “This feels like an additional tax at a time when an additional tax is going to be difficult for people to pay. I’m not hearing anything at the minute that you know what you are going to do with the money. I just can’t see how it is going to benefit anyone at all.”
Mr Rowe-Evans responded: “There is a fund going to Scarborough, Whitby and Filey in excess of £1.5m. If you were to ask Janet Deacon (Tourism and Corporate Marketing manager for Scarborough Council) how much does she get to market your borough she would be delighted if the answer was £1.5m over the next five years.”
Cllr Vanda Inman (Ind) said she worried it would become “an expensive talking shop”.
Kerry Carruthers, the BID project manager said that would not be the case.
She said: “The one thing it cannot be is a talking shop. We have to provide results for the businesses in a short timeframe.”
The BID was approved by 217 votes to 175 last year with a turnout of 29%. Among the aims of the BID is to improve the appearance and environmental awareness in the area.
A number of councillors at today’s briefing backed the BID with Cllr Tom Fox (Con), saying: “Local authorities are not funded to promote tourism. We have to give this a fair chance.”
Cllr David Jeffels (Con) added: “This is a win-win situation. it will improve the marketing and the environment of our town.”
Businesses will shortly be asked to help form the board that will run the BID.