Three independent businesses in Knaresborough have expressed concerns about the process to create a new Business Improvement District for the town.
Companies in Knaresborough will be balloted on Friday on whether to set up a BID.
BIDs, which already exist in many towns and cities, including Harrogate and Ripon, aim to create safer, cleaner and better promoted city and town centres to improve footfall.
Plans to create a Knaresborough BID began in September 2019 and the outcome of this week’s ballot is due to be revealed on October 9.
But three business owners jointly contacted the Stray Ferret saying they felt their voices hadn’t been heard during the BID set-up process and highlighting concerns about transparency, communication and accuracy.
If the BID is voted in, all businesses in the Knaresborough area will have to pay an annual levy for five years. The amount depends on each company’s rateable value and can vary from 68p to £21 each day.
The three women said it was important for them to know before they voted what schemes would be introduced from the £700,000 the BID is expected to receive over five years.
The Knaresborough BID’s business plan sets aside £575,000 for ‘communicating, connecting, celebrating and collaborating’ but the women say they are not clear what this means even though they have sought clarification.
Ms Bell said:
“It’s just not been done in the right way and it’s not transparent. I really do think it could have worked well but it’s just a shame that our opinions haven’t been listened to.
“I have no confidence in how the process has been handled so far that these people [the BID task group] are going to be able to deliver what they said they will deliver.”
When asked what the £575,000 will go towards, Bill Taylor, chair of the BID task group, said:
“If the vote is successful a not-for-profit company will carry out the detailed implementation of the themes identified in the plan. This company will be run and managed by businesses themselves and the details of this are also set out in the business plan.”
The three business owners said they found out about the BID through word of mouth and social media rather than from BID consultants.
They added numerous businesses, included in the BID map area, are yet to be contacted despite ballot papers going out at the end of the week.
The business owners also said they had raised numerous questions and suggested ideas for the business plan but none had been included. They said they felt they weren’t being listened to.
Ms Thorner said:
“We kept trying to get involved and ask questions but now it’s going to ballot and we’re still no more aware of where the £700,000 is going.”
Ms Bell added:
“For me, it sounds like they’ve thought ‘let’s do this thing’ and not tell anyone.”
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They also claimed the ballot list is full of inaccuracies, saying some businesses included don’t exist anymore or have changed hands.
Ms Wilkinson-Gill said:
“Some of the owners on the list have passed away. There should be an accurate list.”
In response, Mr Taylor said the ballot process was handled by an officer at Harrogate Borough Council and incorrect information should be reported to it.
The three women are delivering flyers this week to businesses to ensure they are aware of the upcoming vote. Insisting the flyers are non-biased, Ms Wilkinson-Gill said:
“We don’t care how people vote, we just want everyone to know about it. I’m still optimistic that the BID could be good for the town, we just need to make sure everyone has the chance to be involved.”