A shop owner has claimed what he describes as a “small victory” in a personal fight against compulsory membership of the Elgin Business Improvement District scheme.
David Cairns has objected at having to pay an annual levy to the scheme designed to promote town centre shopping from its inception – and that led to legal action being taken against the newsagent for non-payment.
However, when Moray Council took the Baggs of Elgin owner to court the case was rejected as the local authority had “substantially undervalued” stock they wished to seize from his shop to pay an outstanding annual charge.
The St Giles Centre business is one of over 450 who have faced a compulsory annual fee to the Elgin BID scheme since three quarters of them voted to form the scheme in the ballot that led to the creation of the project in 2009.
He says that his main concern was that large chain stores had sought to join the scheme – and that its aim should be to protect Elgin town centre shops against the effects of large out-of-town retailers.
Mr Cairns said: “It seems that they just want to foist BID on us one way or another. If feel that the town centre shopkeepers should get together and oppose it.
“As some point I still owe them the money – everyone is paying it, that is not the problem. This scheme should be aimed at helping the smaller businesses in our town centre – that is all I want.”
Elgin BID’s manager Gill Neill hit back and defended the record of an organisation she insists was committed to helping all business members by encouraging increased footfall in the town centre.
She added: “Our events have been proven to increase footfall and when we run events we organise activities specifically designed to encourage people to move around Elgin, including the St Giles Centre.”
Mr Cairns’ protest is not the first challenge Elgin BID have faced – in 2012 the owners of the Torr House Hotel on Moss Street insisted they would not join the scheme “because everyone else was scared to say no”.
At that time an Elgin BID spokesman said: “The decision to pursue unpaid levies has not been taken lightly by the board of directors.”
Commenting on the Torr House stance local councillor Barry Jarvis said: “I know that a few businesses that are not on the High Street do think that BID does nothing for them.”