Changing Hampstead BID voting rules is 'not democracy' argue campaigners
- Credit: Archant/Sebastian Wocker
The change in the rules around who can vote in the ballot on the future of the Hampstead Village Business Improvement District (BID) has been slammed as "not democracy" by campaigners.
Previously, businesses with premises of a rateable value of £15,000 or more had to pay a 1.5% levy. The new plans would make the threshold £35,000, and see businesses pay a 1.25% levy.
Only those who would have to pay the adjusted levy are eligible to vote, and critics of the BID claim this amounts to "vote-rigging".
Camilla Delmaestro, who runs a boutique in Heath Street and is secretary of the Bid Abolishment campaign, said: "From a small business perspective, having your vote stripped from you, it smacks of vote-rigging. When you change the election to make it less likely to include the people who might not vote for you doesn't really feel democratic."
She said this would lead to decisions about the future of the area being made by "bigger corporations".
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The BID contends it would raise around £192,000 a year from the levy. Its spending plans total around £975,000 over the five-year term and would include £200,000 on "destination marketing" and £375,000 on cleaning, seasonal events and Christmas lights.
Gary Phillips, a partner at the solicitors Solomon Taylor Shaw, in Coach House Yard, said: "I don't think we get any value for our money, and I don't understand how the BID have been able to disenfranchise people who weren't going to vote for it."
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Sebastian Wocker, publisher of the Hampstead Village Voice magazine, said: "They can raise the threshold of those who pay the BID levy but, unless the entire electorate agrees to it, the BID can’t deny them their right to a vote. That isn’t democracy."
A Camden Council spokesperson cited the 2004 BID Regulations, saying it has "no say" in what a BID sets as the rateable value in its proposal.
Marcos Gold, Hampstead Village BID manager, has been approached for comment. Last week, he told this newspaper that the BID wants to "work together with our businesses and resident communities to put Hampstead in the best possible position to recover from this pandemic".
He added the new plans were "a culmination of lessons learned from the previous term".