BID: A ‘stealth tax’ that will hit all

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I refer to your front page article regarding the BID vision for Morpeth, (Morpeth Herald, July 27).

While the theory of making the Morpeth commercial offer more vibrant in terms of day time retail and evening time economy offers is something to be applauded, the practicalities and administration and what businesses will actually gain from the BID are something more difficult to achieve, especially if it is to be fair and equitable to all commercial businesses in the designated BID areas.

The meeting to which your article refers was very scant on details and, to be fair, was more of a starter for ten about the whole initiative.

In the first instance let no business, large or small, shop front or no shop front, within the defined Morpeth BID area be under any misapprehension that if the BID is voted on and passed by a simple majority then every business will be committed and legally responsible to pay an additional levy of 1.5 per cent of their business rateable value, or up to a cap of £14k per year, for the next five years.

In short, it is going to cost every business more. This includes charity shops, opticians, dentists’, take-aways and accountants, etc. All Morpeth businesses, therefore, need to sit up and take notice.

By way of a forewarning, businesses in Hexham who have not paid this levy have had court summonses and bailiffs at their premises. There have also been problems in other towns across the country.

The meeting to which you refer was apparently attended by 40 businesses out of the 420-plus eligible, which was hardly ‘well attended’.

One of the main issues contested was the exclusion of Copies Lane businesses, as well as why the Heighley Gate Garden Centre and the businesses at Fairmoor were included.

There were also notable sceptics about how this revenue raising organisation would be administered and the monies raised spent, and what the tangible benefits were likely to be.

It was stated by business representatives from Newgate Street that this should not just be a Bridge Street and Sanderson Arcade focused initiative — it should be fully inclusive.

There was also criticism regards the manner in which the information had been circulated to businesses. This was something the organisers clearly had to take on the chin as many business knew nothing or very little of this initiative.

Public transport and car parking availability were inevitably raised as one of the main issues and challenges.

Morpeth has stood up well during the recession when compared with other towns in the south east of the county.

Much is also being circulated on social media, rather more formal channels, about this and meetings are ongoing.

In short, it is going to cost everyone money (businesses and customers) and those who cannot afford to pay this ‘stealth tax’ will close, adding to the ever growing list of niche retail outlets in the town.

Sue Todd

Sour Grapes Wine Bar

Newgate Street