Bid ‘paused’ by town council

A business levy to boost trade is in doubt after the governing Tories at the town hall put the brakes on the scheme - just two months after they rubberstamped it.

The proposed Business Improvement District (BID) would have required 630 town centre, seafront and marina businesses to pay an annual levy of 1.5 per cent of their rateable values.

This would have raised �142,002 a year to be spent on events and marketing to attract visitors and shoppers.

A feasibility study by consultant Lucy Ball was rubberstamped by the 25-member council in October, despite seven of the 11-strong Lib Dem opposition and one independent councillor voting against it.

Then, many businesses in Albion Hill, Exeter Road, Rolle Street and The Parade wanted to opt out.

And the final straw came last week when an anti-BID petition was filed by Strand traders.

This week, businesses found flyers, published by the Conservatives, on their doormats, saying that the BID process should be ‘paused’ to give time for a ‘further exchange of ideas’.

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It read: “We recognise the difficulties that Exmouth businesses are having in the current climate. We want them to flourish.”

Under rules, the council decision to back the BID can be only overturned on December 5 if 13 of the 25 councillors agree – which looks likely now many Conservatives have joined the chorus of concern.

All BID work, including appointing a chief executive and a board, has now stopped.

Conservative leader Lynne Elson said: “It was felt that not all the businesses had all the information or had been consulted on all the facts. And, because of that, they were unable to make a proper informed judgment.

“All we are asking for is it to come back to the town council so we can discuss it further.”

Lib Dem deputy leader Eileen Wragg said: “We supported the BID on the basis of the information that was given at the time.

“It wasn’t until we saw the feasibility study that we realised that the town council would be asked to fund the salary of the chief executive, essentially a town manager in all but name.”

Lucy Ball said: “It is a relatively small amount of money to put in a collective pot for the benefit of all business over which the business community would have had overall control.”

? See letters on page 10.