Rugby BID criticised for high levy on businesses

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A ROW has broken out over whether Rugby’s Business Improvement District (BID) is value for money for town centre businesses.

A minority of 17 of around 450 town-centre rate-payers, who contribute between 2.7 and 5.7 per cent of buiness rates to the BID, are concerned the company are spending too much on CCTV, rangers and salaries compared to similar-sized towns. Some in the group have also accused BID’s management company Rugby First of lacking transparency and failing to represent the views of all BID rate payers.

In response Rugby First have said the levy rate was set only after an extensive consultation process with businesses between 2005 and 2010 and that 73 per cent of businesses who voted in 2010 were in favour of the current set-up.

Aftab Gaffar, Rugby First managing director, said: “BID levy rates, the type and quality of services and town’s rateable values vary considerably and are extremely difficult to compare.

“Many other towns have a much bigger total rateable value than Rugby so are able to charge a lower percentage. Others do not offer the number or quality of services that Rugby provides and that the local business community wanted and voted for.”

However Helen Blamires, who owns the Vanilla gift shops on Albert Street and pays £1,800 a year, is unconvinced.

She said: “Rugby has the highest percentage levy rate in the county, that stands somewhere between 2.7 per cent and 5.7 per cent. In comparing Rugby’s BID levy to four major cities and nine London-based BIDs, Rugby First have proved our point that we pay too much levy. Shops like Asda and other national retailers can afford it but smaller independents like mine can struggle.”

She added: “I’m also not satisfied with many of the answers given to us for specific questions we had about finances at the company. Many are lacking in factual evidence or do not make sense and some are evasive.”

The group of businesses put their case to BID at a meeting on Tuesday February 5.

Speaking on behalf of Rugby First, Mr Gaffar added: “Rugby First have responded directly, openly and objectively to the group calling themselves the BID Members group. The majority of businesses who attended were extremely supportive of the existing BID, current service level provision, the levy rate and want us to continue our mandate.”

BID COMMISSIONS PHONE SURVEY TO EASE WORRIES

Rugby BID have responded to the concerns by commissioning an independent telephone survey by ITN Research. The survey, carried out last month, found that over 90 per cent of respondents were very happy with the overall range of services offered. 75 per cent said they would be happy to continue paying the levy at its current rate, 7 per cent said they would like to see the payment reduced and 9 per cent said they would like it dropped altogether. The rest had no opinion or weren’t sure.