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High street shops continue fight against ‘unfair tax’

Andover BID - No BID campaign

Businesses around Andover High Street are joining forces to boycott an additional rates levy.

A collection of local business owners remain furious at the ‘immoral’ way Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) forced a new tax on them in a recent vote.

A Business Improvement District (BID) which imposes an enforceable levy of 2% of a business’s rateable value was voted-in last year.  However, local businesses continue to show their dismay that the “vote was swung” by the eligible votes of TVBC. These included the use of council-run car parks.

The ballot was won by just 3 votes (67 for, 70 against), where TVBC cast 13 votes, presumably all in favour of the BID.

Anti-BID supporter Georgina Roberts who runs the popular Mooch on Bridge Street told the Andover Advertiser, “This is going to affect the shopkeepers rather than the council. If they hadn’t had their 13 votes it would have been a no.”

51.1% of businesses in the BID ballot voted in favour of the creation of the Business Improvement District, one of the lowest actionable votes across the UK.

A group of local people including furniture store owner Kevin Farrer are part of Andover Businesses Unite, the group was set-up to challenge the result.  Earlier this year they petitioned the Secretary of State to void the result because of council interference, but the appeal failed.

The BID will go ahead from tomorrow (Monday April 1st 2019). Businesses around the town centre area will be charged an additional 2% of their rateable value (not the amount paid) by the borough council based at Beech Hurst.

To see which businesses will have to pay the levy (with a rateable value over £10,000), please see the BID Boundary Map here.

The Andover BID website claims that the scheme is a “business-led and business funded body formed to improve a defined commercial area. Businesses decide and direct what they want by having a voice in issues affecting the area.”

They claim the benefits of the BID will include businesses ‘having a voice’, increased footfall, improved staff retention and reduced business costs.

Concern has been continually expressed that the BID will simply provide services already supplied by TVBC.  The council is keen to reiterate that it “has no intention of withdrawing services that it currently delivers in the town centre.”

However, some businesses remain worried as to whether the Conservative-controlled borough council had acted legally.  Love Andover has uncovered that an investigation is underway within the newly formed anti-BID group.

Anti BID Business Improvement District Andover
No BID: Pressure group publicity

Andover Businesses Unite are suggesting that businesses who are unhappy with the ‘underhand’ way the ‘yes’ result was procured simply refuse to pay the levy.  Businesses who wish to find out more are encouraged to contact them via a closed Facebook group.

A spokesperson told us, “Despite the shameful forcing through of the unfair Andover BID by TVBC, which will see a second tax levied on our already struggling town Centre businesses and the government’s recent decision not to support the BID appeal, many local businesses are refusing to give in.

“Other businesses seem resigned and are preparing to shut up shop and leave Andover Town Centre.

“The businesses rightly believe that our three layers of local government (Hampshire County Council, Test Valley Borough Council and Andover Town Council) should be using more of the existing business rates and council tax monies collected to help stop the decline of Andover town centre and to restore it so that it is once again the beating heart and soul of the community.

“Our councils have a duty to both maintain and improve Andover town centre, by properly investing in it, by supporting existing businesses and encouraging new businesses into the town centre, and by increasing the footfall and dwelling time of both residents and tourists.”

Led by Kevin Farrer and Georgina Roberts, the group are determined to “bring an end to this injustice that has been forced upon businesses” and claim:

“We will not stop until the Andover BID is scrapped.”

Graham Walters owner of Test Valley Models in the Chantry Centre previously told Andover Radio, “This just proves how morally and judicially corrupt Test Valley Borough Council are. And they’re corrupt to the core.

“How can they justify pushing this through when 67 businesses (58% without council votes) were against the BID?”

BID vice-Chairman Kevin Paterson also previously spoke with the local radio station and explained the BID and welcomed comments and criticisms, while trying to ensure shopkeepers have accurate information about the new BID company’s purpose.

LISTEN HERE:

However, despite claims that the directors of the BID company will be comprised of “local businesses making decisions”, last week it was announced that the BID company has appointed Steve Godwin from Salisbury as BID Manager.

A spokesperson from Andover Businesses Unite told us, “I understand that the businesses who voted no will not be allowed to join the BID company.”  Love Andover has requested clarification from Andover BID, at the time of writing no response has been received.

They then quip, “The appeal was considered by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. Local MP Kit Malthouse is Minister of State for Housing.”

A new Facebook Page called Andover BID – The Truth has been set up, which claims it will “report the truth about Andover BID and not just what the BID Company want people to hear.”

Businesses refusing to pay the levy have formed a further pages called Andover Anti-BID Action Group solely for BID levy eligible businesses, this closed group is to “discuss, plan and execute anti-BID actions.”

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