Thursday, 21 March 2013

Wednesday’s item about Boston BID produced an interesting response from a senior figure in neighbouring South Holland District Council.
Proposals to create a Spalding BID about a year after Boston started in business were roundly rejected – and the district council played an important role in that decision.
“The anti-campaigners used the example of Boston as the reason why they shouldn’t have one,” we were told.” That figured strongly, and there were all sorts of accusations about the final vote in Boston, and whether it was by the right margins and all the rest of it
“When we had it in South Holland we booted it out because we let the traders tell us which way to cast our block vote, and there’s nothing stopping Boston Borough Council doing that.
“If the BID is not being used to underpin their funding – if  it’s genuinely supposed to be additional money for better stuff – they can quite easily turn round and do the same thing, and just say that we’ll run a separate poll for businesses and you tell us which way to cast the council’s block vote.
“We didn’t like the idea of taxing more people anyway, but said that if you tell us you want it, fine we’ll vote for it – we had about 30% of the local vote – and we ran a separate poll on our website and the anti-campaign won it by a country mile, so we voted against it.”
The final voting figures which saw the Spalding BID plan rejected left no doubt about the feeling of the local businesses balloted – only 71 of the  285 votes were in favour, and the majority voted against the proposal both by aggregate rateable value and numbers voting.
“I’m hoping that now the Conservatives are running Boston Borough Council that they’ll get back to the principle that if there is going to be additional taxation, it needs to bring additional benefits –  and certainly that the people who are being taxed should be controlling or at least having a proper say in where it’s being spent.”
Boston, of course, is in a similar position to South Holland – in that each of its assets with a rateable value entitles the authority to a vote, and which must give it the loudest voice in any ballot when the BID seeks re-election later this year.
We don’t know what happened last time – but it seems reasonable to assume that Boston Borough Council – which critics have said is too close to Boston BID, and which has flanked off tasks that were formerly its responsibility on to the organisation – would have voted in favour.
Since then, criticism of the BID forced the council to set up a review of its operation which made a number of recommendations which the BID promised to follow – but by and large never did.
Certainly the issue of the voting in Boston raised eyebrows – we recall one critic saying that he threw his ballot paper away thinking it was junk mail – then later discovered that this action meant that he was recorded as voting for the idea.
When the ground rules were laid down, the council minutes at the time recorded that to succeed the ballot had to meet two tests:- a simple majority of those who voted must vote “Yes” and that the aggregate rateable value of those who vote “Yes” must be greater than for those who vote “No.”
But, there was also the stipulation that to be a valid ballot at least 20% of eligible voters were required to participate.
This means that if, say, 500 businesses were canvassed – only 100 needed to vote and  of that, only 51  needed to support the plan for it to be imposed on 449 other businesses.
Talk about the tail wagging the dog!
In Boston, we never got to hear how many votes were cast – merely that “of those businesses that voted” 72.8% by number and 83.9% by rateable value supported the principles that were detailed in the business plan …”
Certainly, when the Boston BID ballot papers go out for the vote on a second five year term, our leaders should think long and hard about whether to support it – but will they?
Before Boston BID, there was a similar company set up in Sleaford – and when it sought a second five year term, it was unceremoniously thrown out.
Surely, there is a lesson to be learned here.
Next Tuesday sees Boston BID’s annual meeting – and we understand that there will be some interesting questions for the chairman and directors to answer.
Watch this space, as they say.

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