No confidence vote to be held against Yorkshire Coast BID after concerns over behaviour and spending

Scarborough councillors have heavily criticised the Yorkshire Coast Business Improvement District ahead of a no confidence motion later this week.

At a meeting of Scarborough Council’s Audit Committee on Thursday 21 July, councillors expressed concerns regarding the behaviour and spending of Yorkshire Coast BID Ltd.

Yorkshire Coast BID Ltd was established as a private, not-for-profit company governed by a board of volunteer directors who represent independent, national and public sector operators, according to its website.

The Business Improvement District was approved in 2018 with votes from Scarborough and East Riding councils.

Scarborough

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The BID vote, which had a 29 per cent turnout, was approved with a 42 vote majority (217 votes in favour, 175 against).

However, it was later revealed that without votes from Scarborough Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council – both of which were able to vote as their car parks and public toilets counted as businesses – the BID proposal would have been defeated.

According to a report presented to the audit committee by a council Destination BID working group: “Members felt that the YCBID lacked transparency and had failed to engage adequately with the businesses in the area.

“Throughout the process [council] members were frustrated that the YCBID’s website was not clear and had difficulties finding details on its projects, finances, and governance overview.”

This comes ahead of a motion of no confidence that has been tabled for the authority’s full meeting on Thursday 28 July by Cllrs Bill Chat and Clive Pearson.

The motion states: “In light of extraordinary, unforeseeable and unpredicted hardships to businesses throughout the pandemic and these early days of its aftermath, will this council […] now examine and debate the past and present performance of the Yorkshire Coast BID, its future operation and fitness for purpose and pass a vote of no confidence in Yorkshire Coast BID Ltd?”

Responding to the motion of no confidence, Clive Rowe-Evans, Chair of the Yorkshire Coast Business Improvement District, said he was “disappointed” to see the motion of no confidence.

He added: “Over the last three years, the Yorkshire Coast BID has supported 83 different projects across the region and our investment to date of 1.4 million has attracted a further £848,000 match funding which has gone back into the community to boost the local economy and drive tourism. These projects have been for a variety of different initiatives and events designed to drive footfall and highlight the cultural offerings available in the different coastal towns.

“We were the only BID in the UK to have granted a 12-month extension to outstanding payments as we sympathised with those businesses that had experienced struggles during the pandemic.

“The Yorkshire Coast BID will continue to support all those levy payers who have backed the BID until at least July 2024 and we will continue to deliver a programme of initiatives that promote, protect and support the Yorkshire coast.”

At the meeting of the audit committee on 21 July, councillors discussed feedback they had received from members of the public and their own experiences working with BID in the course of the working group’s activities.

Cllr Heather Philips, who had been part of the council’s DBID working group, said the report was “quite a considerable piece of work” and that it had been “very valuable to have discussions with people from BID”.

She added: “I think the report and recommendations reflect that experience quite accurately in that there was a lack of engagement generally and [the BID’s] stock response when we asked questions at that physical meeting was ‘it is on our website’.”

The following recommendations of the working group’s report were accepted and approved by the committee:-

1. That the new unitary Council for North Yorkshire should not play an active role in any future ballot to re-establish the Yorkshire Coast Business Improvement District at the end of the current BID’s term.

2. That the Yorkshire Coast BID should be business led and that the new unitary Council for North Yorkshire should abstain from voting in any future ballot to re-establish the Yorkshire Coast Business Improvement District at the end of the current BID’s term.

3. That the new unitary Council for North Yorkshire should have the opportunity to debate and declare whether they are or are not in support of a renewal of the Yorkshire Coast Business Improvement District at the end of the current BID’s term.

4. That Scarborough Borough Council should make a formal determination on its representation on the YCBID Board and whether it should be a Member, Officer, or one of each by means of an alternative Director.

However, in response to concerns raised businesses and members of the public, Cllr Paul Riley suggested that further recommendations be made with regard to transparency and accountability.

He also proposed that the Council’s findings be reported to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up.

Cllr Riley made the following recommendations:-

1. All levy payers be enrolled as members of the BID.

2. Council to call on the BID to hold an annual general meeting open to all levy payers.

3. Report findings to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities with recommendation for upgrading BID regulations so the Secretary of State can require an AGM to be held.

Originally, Cllr Riley suggested that his recommendations be added to those of the report, but agreed to bring them up in writing at the council meeting on Thursday 28 July.

At that meeting, councillors will have the opportunity to vote on the motion of no confidence.