Andover business people grouped together to show their dissent at an impending potential levy on their business rates.
The group believe that many of the 250 businesses in the High Street are either unaware or not fully informed of an imminent ballot which if successful will enforce a 2% levy on business rates.
Local business people including Kevin Farrar from International Furniture, Patrick Langdown from Langdowns/Lancol Properties and Georgina Roberts from Mooch were among the businesses that gathered at Totcity in the Chantry Centre, another ‘No Bid’ supporter.
A BID is a defined area within which businesses are required to pay an additional tax (or levy) in order to fund projects within the district’s boundaries. Payment of the levy is enforceable if voted in by a simple majority of eligible businesses.
The gathered businesses owners feel aggrieved that they have not been fully consulted before the ballot. Ballot papers are being sent to ratepayers from today (8th October 2018).
Others believe that the BID will simply provide services that should be supplied by Test Valley Borough Council.
Patrick Langdown who owns several rate-paying properties around the High Street area exclusively told 95.9FM Andover Radio, “I am very anti the BID. To a lot of our tenants 2% on something we are already contributing to through our business rates is wrong.
“The council have got it wrong. They have employees within their departments who should be doing what they are trying to achieve with this BID. My answer to this is: if they are not doing their job properly, sack them and replace them.
“We can’t be expected to pay twice.”
Kevin Farrer from independent furniture retailer International Furniture adds, “Today was about the non-funded ‘No Bid’ campaign. It seems [the council] have put up £80,000 of taxpayers’ money so far to fund a ‘Vote Yes’ campaign to encourage a Business Improvement District, but have put up no money to fund a ‘Vote No’ campaign.”
White and red ‘No Bid’ posters have appeared around the town in the past couple of weeks, these have been provided to businesses by Mr Farrer. He adds, “We are getting maybe 15 people a day coming in and asking what the signs are all about. When you give them a shortened explanation that it’s an additional tax, all the public are behind us saying ‘that’s ridiculous’.”
“This is the toughest year I’ve had in 30 years of trading.
“Why the hell should anyone vote yes to pay more tax?”
Rachel Belle from Andover Framing believes that the introduction of the BID will be a positive force for the town, the local businesswoman says, “This is a positive step for the High Street, over the years I have been here there has been a decline and we must do something to stop it. We have made efforts in the past but so far we are not winning the battle and I think this help win the battle.”
Whereas some businesses claim they have not been contacted about the BID, Ms Belle who has owned Andover Framing for eight years says, “Right from the start I got letters, emails and people coming into the shop. I took an interest and attended meetings. I’ve listened and read about it and I am perfectly happy with what I have received.”
The ‘defined area’ of businesses that sit within the BID levy area has been set by the BID Steering Group. The area can be seen by clicking here.
However, Georgina Roberts from Mooch on Bridge Street says the area was set to deliberately exclude likely ‘No votes’, “The levy area that the Steering Group set has excluded ASDA who are known nationally to vote ‘no’. And, we think that the whole levy area is way too small.
“We’ve had businesses from outside the town centre contacting us saying that support the ‘no bid’. We’d like to know why they set such a small area and only included 254 businesses out of areas that could have been included like Walworth.
“I just think this is dividing the town.”
The Andover BID have published their business plan, which is available on their website here.
It is understood that the Andover Advertiser will publish an informed ‘feature article’ on the arguments for and against a Business Improvement District in this Friday’s paper.