Council defends vote that extended city-centre scheme

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A COUNCIL has defended using its eight per cent vote in a controversial ballot which gave a city centre initiative a new five-year term.

Last October, Hull’s Business Improvement District began a second term after securing 318 votes from the 596 who took part in a poll – a winning margin of just 40. The BID charges city centre firms one per cent of their rateable value to pay for initiatives, including extra police patrols, decorating empty shop fronts and staging events.

A group of over 60 traders appealed to the Department for Communities and Local Government for the ballot to be declared “null and void”.

Opponents argue that asking businesses to pay extra on their rates for services like removing graffiti duplicates what the council does.

Their appeal made claims, including lack of opportunity to campaign for a “no” vote as they did not have access to the database of businesses involved, and a conflict of interest as the council held eight per cent of the votes.

However the department has dismissed the objections and said there was no “material irregularity” in the ballot.

In a statement, Hull Council said: “The council voted yes in the ballot in 2011 after seeing evidence of the Hull BID’s achievements over the past five years across the five priority areas identified by businesses: Safety and security, cleaning and maintenance, events and marketing, evening economy, access, signage and information.

“The council feels Hull BID demonstrated significant opportunities to impact on maintaining and developing the city centre as a lively and vibrant yet safe place to live, invest, work and visit.”

A spokesman for Retailers Against The Bid said: “The ballot was won by only 40 votes, and the council’s vote represents around 90. It is disgraceful that the council, who have representatives on the board, have imposed the BID on local businesses and then take them to court to pay the levy.”