Tuesday 09th August 2022,
North Yorks Enquirer

In Plain Sight

In Plain Sight

  • – an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, drawing readers’ attention to some very telling bits of information, hidden in plain sight.

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Two of the most highly contentious issues facing Scarborough Borough Council, as it winds its way into the history books, sprang to my attention in recent days:

1. The unnecessary and unwanted ‘stealth’ tax on businesses known as the Yorkshire Coast BID;

2. The equally unnecessary and unwanted plan for the ‘regeneration’ (read ‘re-purposing’) of Scarborough’s West Pier.

Outside of the world of tourism-related businesses, many readers will know of the Yorkshire Coast BID (‘the BID’) only from the pages of the North Yorks Enquirer, which has featured dozens of reports highlighting any number of system failures that have contributed to a universal mistrust of the BID, resulting in a well-organised and duly diligent scrutiny of its purpose and value.

The Yorkshire Coast BID is one of many ‘Business Improvement Districts’ up and down the country, many of which were proposed to local authorities by an outfit called the Mosaic Partnership, headed up by one Mo ASWAT, who has successfuly foisted BIDs on dozens of local authorities.

The Mosaic Partnership’s MO ASWAT

Looking at the Mosaic Partnership’s website over the weekend, I was shocked to find the answer to the question as to the real purpose of BIDs answered in plain sight (see above).

“We assist Councils to force BIDS (Business Improvement Districts) into towns in order to raise more revenue out of businesses.

Ah! So not about benefitting businesses at all, then?

Rather, about squeezing more revenue out of hard-pressed, post-pandemic, ‘Bounce Back Loan’ repaying, struggling businesses to line the Council’s coffers – no doubt in preparation (tongue in cheek) for settling certain redundancy packages, pensions and ‘golden handshakes’ on the soon-to-be unemployed or unemployable Officers (or balancing the Whitby and Scarborough Harbour Undertaking Accounts). A blueprint for extortion, more like.

Here, once more, in the words of Mosaic:

“We assist Councils to force BIDS (Business Improvement Districts) into towns in order to raise more revenue out of businesses.

No wonder that right-thinking Councillors are pressing for a Vote of NO CONFIDENCE in the Yorkshire Coast BID. It will be interesting to see which members oppose such a motion. Business proprietors will want to know their names, addresses and contact details.

It is salutory to remember that, whilst leading the Opposition, the present Leader, Councillor Steve SIDDON [Lab.], pressed the then-Leader (Councillor Derek BASTIMAN [Con.]) to ensure that the Council’s commitment to progressing the BID should return to Full Council – and Councillor BASTIMAN duly gave that assurance. He was, however, unable to fulfil his promise because he lost the Leadership to Councillor SIDDONS in the Tory collapse at the May 2019 elections. That should have ensured that Full Council evaluated the scheme. But Councillor SIDDONS – in one of his many U-turns – has since taken no steps to further his declared desire for the BID issue to come before Full Council.

It is difficult to see how the Leader (or any of his cohorts) can oppose the following Motion – revised by Councillors CHATT, PEARSON, ABBOTT, SMITH and POPPLE in order to accommodate CEO Mike GREENE’s desire to specify a clear outcome. To do so would throw tourism-related businesses in the Borough of Scarborough and the County of East Yorkshire to the wolves.

To call upon members to address the following sole Motion:

MOTION

In light of extraordinary, unforeseeable and unpredicted hardships to businesses throughout the pandemic and these early days of its aftermath, will this Council, in consideration of the many unprecedented challenges facing BID Levy-payers now additionally burdened by repayments under the Coronavirus Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS), now examine and debate the past and present performance of the Yorkshire Coast BID, its future operation and fitness for purpose, and pass a Vote of NO CONFIDENCE in Yorkshire Coast BID Ltd?

[The revision is highlighted in bold type]

On Wednesday 22nd June 2022, East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) will also consider an almost identical cross-party motion – though there, the outcome is less significant; it is SBC that is the so-called ‘Lead Authority’. ERYC just tagged along, perhaps because only the coastal wards are affected.

The use of the word “force” is significant; do not lose sight of the fact that SBC, in its Final Demand Notices to recalcitrant Levy-payers, has threatened non-payers with the propect of imprisonment – no way to endear Councillors to their electors.

[The section highlighted in bold type is so highlighted by SBC – not by me].

Of course, SBC Councillors will not be seeking re-election (the Council will cease to exist next April), but ERYC has its full-term elections in May 2023.

Few ERYC Councillors will wish to go on record in favour of squeezing businesses into oblivion with threat of imprisonment. Several ERYC Councillors have already expressed their distaste at the notion that SBC’s support for the BID has also burdened East Yorkshire businesses, who have no voice in what goes on in Scarborough.


The second glaring anomaly came to my attention on Facebook, where there has been a well-supported campaign in opposition to the West Pier ‘regeneration’ proposal, where 100+ car-parking spaces stand to be lost in favour of SIDDONS’ ‘continental plaza’ madness that nobody who lives or works in or near the Harbour wants.

The illuminating part of the following screenshot appears at bottom left, where Councillor Janet JEFFERSON [Ind.] – Leader of the Independent Group (which has supported the SIDDONS administration wholeheartedly in its desire to ‘gentrify’ the West Pier) – has clicked ‘Like’ in response to the following appeal to retain the West Pier’s parking facilities. Her name appears immediately below my own.

My, my! Politics really does make for strange bedfellows. In this case, one of those bedfellows is in and out of bed according to political expediency.

So whose side are you on, Janet? Pro-parking or pro-plaza? Or are you one of those career politicians who seeks to be all things to all men, without firm commitment to anyone – except, of course, yourself?

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