Hampstead BID: King William IV landlord defiant as barrister claims payment demand broke the law

King William IV landlord Jimmy McGrath with barrister Robert Griffiths QC. Picture: Sam Volpe

King William IV landlord Jimmy McGrath with barrister Robert Griffiths QC. Picture: Sam Volpe - Credit: Archant

King William IV landlord Jimmy McGrath said he would rather “go to prison” than pay the BID levy, during his day in court over the unpaid amount.

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 - Credit: Archant

The 80-year-old was defiant as he insisted he wouldn't be paying the fee and didn't believe the Hampstead Business Improvement District provided a good service.

Under questioning from his barrister Robert Griffiths QC at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court, he said: "I thought it was a scam. They were asking me for money that other places don't have to pay but get the same services. I raised this with Caroline Goldsack [former BID manager], she said it meant we would get lower rates, and lower energy bills. I couldn't take seriously what she was saying.

"I would rather go to prison than pay the BID. I run a community pub, we raise thousands for charities every year. What's happening with the BID is very unfair and the money could be better spent."

The hearing saw Camden Council's taxation manager, Charles Quick come under intense scrutiny from Mr McGrath's barrister, Robert Griffiths QC.

Mr Griffiths put Mr Quick through the wringer, turning the exchange into that similar to a frustrated school teacher and a pupil.

He told district judge Julia Newton the bill from Camden Council to Mr McGrath didn't contain information about how BID money was spent, contrary to the Business Improvement Districts regulation 2004 which determines how the levy must be collected. This means the demand was invalid, he told the court.

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Mr McGrath owes more than £900 after refusing to pay the levy, which was brought in after a 2016 referendum of business in Hampstead. Camden, which has brought the case against the landlord are not directly involved in the BID but as the local billing authority it enforces payment of the levy.

In his written evidence, Mr Quick said that the information had been provided on an insert, and indicated that information on the back of the bill would also direct someone to the Hampstead Village BID website, where a spending list and plan could be found.

However Mr Griffiths' request for Mr Quick to identify the insert in his legal papers left him furiously flicking through to find it, to no avail, while Mr Griffiths urged him to "concentrate."

"The bill doesn't contain that information," said Mr Griffiths.

"You're relying on a document that has been omitted from the bundle.

"Your case doesn't make much sense anyway," he told the court.

While it would be legal for the information to be communicated electronically, Mr McGrath would have to indicate to the BID and council that he preferred this method, which hadn't happened, the court heard.

When Mr Griffiths came to questioning his client, Mr McGrath said he didn't own a computer, so couldn't have accessed the website. Although under cross examination from Camden's barrister Asa Tolson, he said he could have accessed a computer and the website through friends or family, if he had needed to.

In later legal submissions, Mr Griffiths told district judge Newton that although the BID had retrospectively sent out the information by post, on February 22 this year, it didn't mean "we've made a mistake, we will now send it out retrospectively."

A judgement is expected on April 29 at 10am.

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