A TAUNTON businessman has raised concerns the town could ‘sleepwalk’ into a scheme it doesn’t want.
The man, who has created an anonymous website against the proposed Business Improvement District, known as BID, says more needs to be done to ensure all eligible voters have the information they need to make an informed decision.
Around 400 businesses will be asked to vote on the proposals, which would see them paying a levy to boost trade in the town.
Only businesses with a rateable value of more than £5,000 would be eligible to pay the 1.5 per cent levy. But businesses within the BID district would have to pay if plans are approved, whether they voted for it or not.
The ‘No Taunton BID’ creator has owned a business in town since 2002, and says he paid for the BID the last time it was run, and he didn’t feel the benefits.
He said: “Let’s have a proper, open, two-sided debate.
“I just want to raise awareness of the other side.
“It’s a yes campaign that doesn’t let people get to know the reasons, and make up their own minds.
“I didn’t benefit from the last bid. It’s a waste of money to try again.
“There’s concerns over how the process is managed and run.
“People are scared to talk out against it for fears they will be ‘black listed’ or accused of being ‘anti-Taunton’.”
Although he says he would accept a ‘yes’, he fears the process is ‘undemocratic’.
The BID scheme is being spear-headed by Taunton Chamber of Commerce, alongside Colin Barrell of Mr Miles Tea Rooms, who is the chairman of the BID working group.
The group received £17,000 from the former Taunton Deane Borough Council to run a feasibility study on running the BID.
However, the businessman says it’s not right that ‘public money’ is being used to fund a ‘yes campaign’, without there being a ‘no’ equivalent.
As it stands, both Somerset West and Taunton council and Somerset County Council would receive votes in the scheme as business owners.
According to Mr Barrel, Somerset West and Taunton council’s contribution would be £12,313, 4.56 per cent of the total income, and would have eight votes. This equates to 1.77 per cent of the votes.
Somerset County Council’s contribution would be £2,988, 1.1 per cent of the total income, with two votes, or 0.44 per cent.
He said: “If Taunton votes it in with a big mandate, then great.
“But it’s not very democratic.
“If it’s supposed to be about the businesses, make it about the businesses, and don’t let the council vote.
“I’m not telling people to vote no, it’s more about asking people what they know so there’s a bit of balance.
“I don’t want businesses to sleepwalk into BID, as there’s no minimum voter participation. If just 20 businesses vote yes then it’s in.
“The consultation isn’t about ‘consider having’, it’s about how it will be done.
“It’s just creating another level of bureaucracy.”
For more information on the ‘no’ campaign, visit notauntonbid.co.uk.