Councillors look set to agree another five-year deal for an Elgin city centre improvement scheme in the face of growing opposition from small shop owners.
Members of the policy and resources committee will discuss proposals that they waive £4100 annual administration costs and contribute £55,000 each year towards the running costs of the Elgin Business Improvement District.
Elgin BID is coming to the end of its first five years and a vote is to be taken involving city centre shops owners on if it should continue. A business plan has been prepared by the Elgin BID company but it requires the support of councillors if the scheme is to continue.
However, opposition to the scheme is growing with local businessman David Cairns – who was taken to court for refusing to pay the compulsory BID levy leading the way.
Mr Cairns insists that the method of continuing Elgin BID is unfair to small shopkeepers as any vote will be weighted in favour of the rateable value of shops.
He has written to all Moray’s councillors although he says he is yet to receive a single reply from any of them: “The three largest parties are Tesco, Moray College and the Moray Council themselves.
“Mark Watson the undertaker sent the manager of BID an email saying that he wanted to opt-out and all businesses should be treated the same and afforded the same principles.”
BID was set up in 2009 after a 75% vote in favour of its formation was returned by businesses in the centre of Elgin.
However, that came only after Tesco had said they wished to opt-out of the scheme – resulting in the city centre boundary being redrawn to exclude their store and so ensure that no compulsory levy would apply.
Since then, however, Tesco have had a change of heart and now say they wish to join the scheme – resulting in the boundary being redrawn again to bring the store back into line.
While the papers before councillors today outline a £5million boost to the city centre economy as a direct result of Elgin BID, Mr Cairns pointed out this week that most if not all of that cash would have come to Elgin with or without a BID.
He said: “Elgin BID love to tell us how they’ve brought in £5 million pounds of investment into Moray.
“£1.7million came from TCRF (Town Centre Regeneration Fund) and £3.3 million from CARS (Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme).
“Many other towns managed to attract the funding without a BID company to do it for them.
“Their Council’s seem to manage just fine – only four of the 44 towns in Scotland that attracted CARS funding did so with the help of a BID – so 40 managed find without one, even Keith who attracted funding without having a BID.”