More than 100 shop and business owners could appear in court this morning over failure to pay a Business Improvement District levy... but some claim keeping up payments would close them down.
The prosecutions are being brought against 99 town centre shops and businesses and seven Brackmills firms over non-payment of mandatory levies to the Northampton Town Centre Business Improvement District (BID) and Brackmills BID. But some facing court action protest that the charges are too high.
Carol Faulkner, of Northampton Health Store, owes £257 to the court in unpaid levy and fees and is due to appear in front of magistrates today.
She said “We really can’t afford any of this. Paying it means we’ll end up closing down, which is hardly in line with the aims of improving the town centre.
“Why they can’t just fund these BID schemes from our collective rates, I don’t know. As far as I can see, the BID isn’t bringing more people to the town but we’ve all got to pay.
“When our units are empty, will the BID have been successful?” she added.
This year, 147 firms have been issued with summonses for non-payment.
Businesses in Northampton town centre voted yes to continuing as a BID in October 2015, which means that town centre businesses with a rateable value of £5,000 now pay an annual levy and this funding is pooled to fund a host of projects, events and initiatives.
This levy arrangement will generate £1.5 million of ring-fenced funding over the five-year life of the BID.
Northampton Borough Council has a legal obligation, once the BIDs are voted in, to take action against any business that fails to pay the levy.
Jessica D’Aulerio, chair of Northampton Town Centre BID, said: “The principle of any BID is to deliver projects and results that would not have happened without it so everything we do as a BID relates back to the business plan that businesses voted for. We feel that the levy the businesses pay is modest in relation to the benefits of being part of a BID. For the smallest business in the Business Improvement District, the daily cost is less than a first class postage stamp and even for a large business the daily cost is less than the price of a single cinema ticket.”