Members of the local business community were welcomed to the Auchterarder BID open meeting by steering group member Carol Wood who introduced the BID project manager Tony l’Anson.
Tony advised that he would talk on the BID area, levy amount, PKC, voting and funding then open the floor for questions.
The BID area reaches from the Public Park at the top of the town to Baynes at the bottom of the town. 129 businesses are eligible to be part of the BID.
The proposed amount to be raised by the BID levy has been formulated using the banded system as it was in Crieff. The banded system would bring in approximately £47k per annum. If the prescribed method for small towns of a set percentage of 2% per business was used the levy would bring in approximately £27k per annum.
Although an increase in footfall does not provide tangible benefits for all businesses, the ability to speak with one voice is important. It was also suggested that a utilities firm which has worked with many BID groups could be brought in to discuss possible utility savings.
The results of the present consultation process have to be sent to Scottish BIDs by 25th November. If there is no discernible support then Perth and Kinross Council can suspend the process for 6 months or stop the process completely.
If the process goes to a full ballot, a BID can only go ahead if the following criteria are met.
- there is a minimum turnout (the headcount) of 25% of the individual persons entitled to vote
- there is a minimum turnout by rateable value of the properties of 25%
- more than 50% by turnout and by rateable value of the properties vote in favour.
The next steps report has 2 key points. An operating agreement which puts all the rules of services provided and allows the BID to hold providers to account if the services are reduced. The other main benefit is leveraged funding. The ability for a BID to apply for funding and match funding for projects.
An application has been put forward for Auchterarder to become a Zero Waste Town. Zero Waste Scotland have asked when the BID is due and what difference it will make.
The funding for the project so far consists of a £20k grant from BIDs Scotand and match funding of £20k from Perth and Kinross Council. There has also been a £10k grant which was used for the e-bikes.
If the BID does not go to ballot then the funding is returned.
The next steering group meeting is on 7 November.
The floor was then opened for questions.
Many questions were asked about the banding, the set up of the BID proposal and the information in the Next Steps document.
The answers to all of those questions were encompassed by Tony answering that the BID proposal was set up before he arrived. The Next Steps document is out for consultation and can be changed if the replies show things need to be changed.
The point was then made that businesses are being asked to vote in the consultation on a document that can be changed. It was suggested that this was a pointless exercise to vote on something that is not definite.
The question was asked “What is the criteria for stopping the vote?” Tony answered that it can be stopped at the point of the questionnaires coming back. If the majority of returned questionnaires state that they do not want a BID then this information will go back to BIDS Scotland and the BID proposal can stop there.
Some in the audience objected to the questionnaire suggesting that the questions are loaded. There was also a question asking what tangible benefits businesses will obtain from the BID.
Again, the answer came back that the Next Steps document was not set in stone and if a BID went through there would be a Company set up to manage the funds. The directors of this company would make the decisions regarding spending. This did not go down well with those attending who stated that they did not need others to make decisions on their behalf. This proposal is supposed to be on behalf of local business people, most of whom knew nothing about the process when it started and still didn’t until very recently.
It was asked why the customer questionnaire was included with the next steps document, the consensus was that it had no place in the BID proposal process. Many felt that the BID proposal has no tangible benefit to businesses and that the management team does not have credibility due to significant financial gain in the process so far.
The overlying impression of those attending was that the BID proposal was started with no consultation with local businesses. That this process could result in a levy on local businesses was seen as unfair and undemocratic. Many businesses were unhappy at the lack of communication about something that would have such a huge impact. They felt it was wrong for this proposal to have been started in the first place without full consultation with all the businesses who could be affected and that it should be stopped.
The meeting was closed by Carol Wood who stated that the message was clear. The BID proposal started in 2014 for the good of the town and businesses but due to a lack of communication has not progressed as it should. It would be great to keep the business momentum that has come from this process.