Wednesday 30th November 2022,
North Yorks Enquirer

Bid Farewell to the BID, Mike

Bid Farewell to the BID, Mike

An Open Letter to Mike GREENE, Head of Paid Service & CEO of Scarborough Borough Council, providing information and opinion intended to be of assistance to the Council in the execution of its statutory duties, in the hope that Mike will read between the lines and spare himself huge embarrassment – or worse.

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Mike GREENE – Head of Paid Service & CEO – SBC

IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST

Mike,

Good day to you.

Once again, I find myself constrained to addressing you in the public domain – as would appear to be your preference, given your Council’s adherence to its “email interception” policy. So be it.

As you will know, I am the grateful recipient of a great deal of information – by telephone, email, social media (private messages), Zoom/Skype virtual meetings – and by way of innumerable face-to-face meetings with Councillors (from here and afar) and influential business people.

Collectively, these sources of information comprise a broad but detailed ‘climate’ of opinion (including the professional opinion of solicitors, barristers, accountants and specialist VAT consultants), much of which has recently been circulated amongst elected members for the entirely honourable purpose of ensuring that a comprehensive assessment of the facts underpinning the Council’s contractual relationship with the Yorkshire Coast BID company forms the foundation of the Council’s deliberations.

Even the Leader has conceded that there exists a conflict of legal opinion on the subject of whether or not the Council has the power to bring a halt to the present incarnation of the BID – a so-called ‘Red Button’.  (I have reproduced, for convenience of reference, the relevant Articles of the BID legislation at the foot of this Open Letter, along with the relevant Article of the so-called ‘Operating Agreement’, followed by certain Yorkshire Post reports which members may have overlooked).

It will be a source of grave concern to you, as it is to me, that there exists a burgeoning acknowledgement that elected members of the Council (rather like the 100+ signatories of the widely-circulated Open Letter recently published on the North Yorks Enquirer) feel themselves to have been ‘inaccurately advised’ (forgive the euphemism) by Officers of Paid Service on the subject of the BID company and its contractual relationship with the Council – perhaps deliberately so.

This belief amounts to speculation that a compelling case for nonfeasance, misfeasance or malfeasance is now on the cards. The funding is available; the signatories of the Open Letter published on the North Yorks Enquirer on Wednesday 31st May 2022 are fully committed.

Setting aside, for the moment, this mounting suspicion of wrongdoing, there arises the marginally lesser (and more charitable) charge of serial incompetence, negligence or inadvertent dishonesty. It may be that the Council’s legal and financial ‘experts’ have simply been overtaxed by the finer nuances of the legislation.

When we recall the Council’s inexplicable misinterpretation of the statutory requirements in respect of the accounting of the Whitby Harbour Undertaking (and now the Scarborough Harbour Undertaking); the Minimum Revenue Provision and the (frankly) bizarre recording of the Council’s Asset Register; the ‘unforeseen’ expiry of the Council’s Coastal Protection contract with Transcore; the departure from the government’s criteria for the Town Deal application in respect of the West Pier ‘regeneration’ (see Tuesday’s Open Letter); the entire North Bay catastrophe et cetera, et cetera – we may be forgiven for concluding that Officers’ professional performances have fallen quite generally below acceptable standards.

Perhaps now is the time for you to familiarise yourself with (and draw members’ attention to) Statutory Instrument 2015 No. 881, which specifies the procedure for implementing the dismissal of errant Officers?

Meanwhile, the open conflict between Officers and a growing band of more enlightened elected members stands as an obstacle to good governance and the wellbeing of businesses and residents throughout the Borough. Officers’ attempts to evade members’ scrutiny have become risible and pathetic.

A Requisition (dated 31st May 2022), signed by five elected members (see below), calling upon the Mayor to schedule an Extraordinary Meeting of Full Council, is entirely consonant with s.4 of the Council Procedure Rules, embodied within the Constitution, and MUST therefore take place – whether Officers so wish or not. It is an opportunity for members to become fully acquainted with the full range of the BID company’s many inadequacies and the Council’s true position in law:

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?

What could be more reasonable? It seems clear that, in the view of the overwhelming majority of Levy-payers, YCBID has added no value. It would tax credulity to proclaim claim that it does. It is long past time for the BID company’s fitness for purpose to fall under the direct scrutiny of elected members – not Officers of Paid Service – as past and present Leaders have previously demanded. But the tail, as ever, has been wagging the dog. On this issue (at least), that MUST now cease.

I predict, with some confidence, that a very similar Motion will appear on the Agenda of the next meeting of East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) on 16th June 2022. There is little appetite to oppose it. ERYC Monitoring Officer Mathew BUCKLEY confirmed in his correspondence with me on the subject that he shares the same erroneous view as SBC’s own Monitoring Officer – though the penny may now have dropped.

It is unhelpful, too, that misinformed underlings at Scarborough Borough Council are misleading Levy-payers with bully-boy tactics – for example, that it is the Ministry of Justice that has demanded that hearings addressing non-payment by Levy-payers can only be held over the telephone, or that non-payers are risking prison sentences. If you would like me to arrange for the publication of details, just ask.

On Thursday 7th April 2022, Beverley Magistrates’ Court adjourned the hearing summoned by East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) seeking Liability Orders against Levy-payer refuseniks until Thursday 7th July 2022, for good reason.

On Thursday 9th June 2022, West Riding Magistrates’ Court will consider similar Summonses served by SBC. Or perhaps not – a similar Adjournment, at the request of SBC, is surely now to be anticipated.

I conclude by repeating my offer to assist you in your understanding of the legislation. I can offer you a metaphorical Excalibur upon which the vainglorious Chair of Yorkshire Coast BID Ltd [VAT #: 324894184], Mr Clive ROWE-EVANS (whose CV was eviscerated in my 13/11/19 article, featuring an serendipitously named sailing ship) and the remaining active members of the Board of Directors may be invited to fall – before being pushed by a higher authority.

Everyone deserves a shot at redemption, Mike. That ‘Red Button’ is yours for the asking.

Regards,

Nigel



The Business Improvement Districts (England) Regulations 2004





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