Weston businesses in court over levy debt

PUBLISHED: 10:00 31 October 2015 | UPDATED: 09:53 04 November 2015


MORE than 150 shops, cafés and small businesses in Weston-super-Mare have been taken to court for failing to pay a portion of their business rates.

MORE than 150 shops, cafés and small businesses in Weston have been taken to court for failing to pay a portion of their business rates.

North Somerset Council has control of collecting council tax and business rates in the area – although it does not set the level of business rates.

An extra levy is added on in Weston for the Business Improvement District (BID), which pays for town centre events and schemes.

More than 700 businesses in the BID must pay the levy, which can range from £50-£30,000 a year, but 170 of these have not done so.

Town centre manager Steve Townsend said: “We make the town safer, cleaner and put on events. Safer because of the street wardens, we do street cleaning above and beyond what the local authority does, we work with the police to make it difficult for persistent shoplifters to get away with it.

“BID is a fair way of getting everybody to contribute fairly.”

North Somerset councillor and owner of Spar in High Street, Mark Canniford, said: “The idea that some people don’t have to pay just cannot work. It’s a great shame that many people feel that they can’t pay. A lot of people only pay a small levy anyway, so it is a matter of principle.

“If they are not paying but still taking the benefits being offered it can’t work.”

Earlier this year the future of the Weston super Food Festival was thrown into doubt as BID could not offer funding because so many businesses owed the levy.

When people do not pay the rates the council sends a reminder and if they still fail to pay a court summons is sent.

Mr Townsend said: “I have no idea why some of them haven’t paid to be honest – some leave it right to the last minute. It could be a cash flow issue – I’ve no idea.

“If people are struggling to pay they can spread out their payments – we are not the big bad wolf. We are always here to talk about it, it’s not our job to make business difficult.”

Businesses voted for the BID payment to be compulsory in 2012, but firms will have the chance to scrap the scheme during a vote over its potential renewal in 2017.

Mr Townsend said: “We hope the businesses vote in favour of a new BID but I can’t guarantee that the majority will be happy to vote in back in.”

Cllr Canniford suggested some small businesses in places such as Orchard Street and Meadow Street might feel that all the benefits go to the shops in High Street.

“That is a problem that BID has to solve but I’m not sure how they solve it.

“If they feel they are getting no benefits then next time they must campaign against it. Last time people were just not interested and then grumbled after the event.”

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