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Hampstead BID row: William IV pub landlord faces court over unpaid business levy

PUBLISHED: 07:30 11 October 2018

Jimmy McGrath, landlord of the King William IV pub in Hampstead. Picture: Polly Hancock

Jimmy McGrath, landlord of the King William IV pub in Hampstead. Picture: Polly Hancock

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A defiant pub landlord is set to appear before magistrates today after refusing to pay the Hampstead Business Improvement District (BID) levy for two years.

Jimmy McGrath, landlord of the King William IV pub in Hampstead. Picture: Polly HancockJimmy McGrath, landlord of the King William IV pub in Hampstead. Picture: Polly Hancock

Jimmy McGrath, 79, has been running the King William IV pub in Hampstead High Street since 2016, shortly after the controversial BID was voted through in a July referendum.

The vote saw 65 per cent of businesses in favour, but only 111 of 243 eligible Hampstead enterprises took part.

Camden Council, the local billing authority, is taking him to court as he owes about £900 – two years’ worth of his levy, which is 1.5 per cent of business rates.

Jimmy said: “It’s not about the money, let me tell you that. My first reason is: what do we get? I don’t know. For example, does anyone get a salary?”

Jimmy McGrath, landlord of the King William IV pub in Hampstead. Picture: Polly HancockJimmy McGrath, landlord of the King William IV pub in Hampstead. Picture: Polly Hancock

Ahead of the court appearance, Jimmy said: “I don’t know what I’m walking into. I want to stand in the dock and ask a few questions.

“If I get the answers I’m after, I’ll pay up. If not, I’ll fight it and come back with a QC if I have to.

“If I could see that, for example, they’d built public toilets in Hampstead, it’d be a different matter.”

Hampstead BID chief executive Caroline Goldsack told the Ham&High she had spoken to Jimmy and was hoping to work with him to explore the option of public toilets.

She said: “I want to be clear that there’s not some little wizard of Oz hiding behind a curtain. We want to work with businesses on issues that matter to them! They can always talk to us and influence what we do.

“The BID invests in projects on behalf of local businesses to help make Hampstead a better place to trade, improving the environment at a street level as well as providing promotional support and advocacy for the business community.”

Sebastian Wocker, who runs the Hampstead Village Voice satirical magazine, told this newspaper: “In my view it’s unethical. Businesses should not have to pay a fee to another private business without agreeing to it.

“I think when there’s another vote in 2 and half years time we will see a different outcome.”

Cllr Richard Olszewski, Camden’s finance chief, told us paying the BID levy was a legal obligation and added: “BIDs have a track record of saving local businesses money by, for example, striking collective deals for energy and recycling.

“A clear majority of Hampstead businesses voted to back the BID and its planned £1.2million investment in Hampstead to make it a better place to do business – through better promotion to drive footfall and ultimately, by supporting businesses to grow.”

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