If the board of Boston Business “Improvement” District is expecting a cosy rubber stamping session at tomorrow’s Annual General Meeting, then they could be in for a bit of a shock.A long-standing critic of the BID will be there to pose a question or ten on behalf of a number of member businesses.
Boston accountant Darron Abbott – who was briefly a director of the BID before he quit in protest at the way it was being run – has questions on issues ranging from the BID’s use of levy payers’ money to the apparent absence of key information from the minutes, and a declaration of secrecy at the most recent board meeting.
Mr Abbott’s first question concerns a concert planned in Boston’s Central Park, which was cancelled for a second year – this time with poor weather being blamed.
His question concerns the financing of the event, and asks: “How was it possible to for the manager to arrange this event and pay £10,000 out of the bank account without authorisation of the board or without anyone else knowing?” He also wants to know whether this money was recovered from the event organisers – a Grantham based company called Infodex – and whether any other costs incurred were lost when the event was cancelled.
Another financial question concerns the fate of an award of £10,000 made under the Portas Pilot scheme.
All unsuccessful applicants for one of the £100,000 main awards received a token £10,000 runners up prize. The award was made in October last year, but so far there has been no news of what has been done with the money.
An important question concerns the matter of secrecy.
The BID has long been accused of failing to keep its levy payers – who are not members voluntarily, and who are prosecuted by Boston Borough Council if they fail to pay 1% of their business rate – in touch with what it is doing
Despite promises to keep members informed – the most recent being made around six – months ago, nothing has ever been done, but Mr Abbott feels that a recent development is a step too far.
“One of the complaints levelled at BID has been the lack of communication.” He says.
“Why are the board so secretive regarding its actions?
“The minutes from the latest board meeting state:-
All the directors present agreed that any discussions that took place within a board meeting were confidential and information should not be released to the public until such time as plans had been fully formulated and the board had agreed to release the information.
He goes on to raise questions about board issues, and asks: “Why is there no declaration of interest from Mr Derek Taylor considering he is a director of Taylor Made Security who supply the rangers to BID.“Mr Taylor's business address is outside the BID area. I was told last year I had to be associated with a business inside the BID area to be able to be a director.
“It appears Boston BID have changed their accountant. Please could you let me know at which board meeting this was decided as it is not mentioned in any of the minutes?
“Please could you tell me the date the accounts were approved by the board as the copies I have do not contain any dates or signatures. There is no mention of them being approved in any of the minutes from board meetings.”
Mr Abbott also raises the issue of the BID taking on activities that are not permitted.
“Having read the prospectus for Boston BID, a part of page 15 reads:-
“Baseline Services. A BID does not pay for services that are already covered by your existing business rates”
It then went on to define existing services for which current rates were paid – and which included festivals and events.
Mr Abbott says: “It appears from this list that in going alone with the Christmas market, Boston BID may have stepped outside its permitted guidelines.”
The answers to these questions will be interesting … to say the least.
Assuming that any are forthcoming.
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