Opinion: Powerful few will continue to dictate the future for Elgin

insideMoray is and has always been a community news website, an open and unbiased forum for individuals, business, community groups and clubs – everyone to have an equal say in what happens in Moray.

Today we reported the news that Elgin BID will continue for a further five years and provided the official reaction to that by Elgin BID.

However, there is another side to the story – we have been approached by a number of businesses in Elgin who are hurting as a result of the levy they must now pay for another five years to Elgin BID.

The following article was received by one of the leaders of the campaign that hoped to halt BID being given a second term. Our policy of giving a voice to all dictates that we publish this in full. We would of course welcome comments from Elgin BID by way of a direct reply.

By David Cairns, Elgin store owner.

Elgin BID – five more years

It’s not really a surprise that this BID proposal was voted back in, is it?

After all they had booked the library and media to reveal the result of the ballot. Would they have done that if they had lost the ballot?

No – they would have released a statement and disbanded quietly.

And that, that there, is what is wrong with this scheme. The powerful few were privy to the information in advance.

The powerful few dictate what is going on in this town. Now that may always have been the case – but now they’re asking my family to pay for it.

There is never any transparency with anything that Elgin BID does, you could never accuse them of complete honesty could you?. They are a discredited organisation and are mistrusted by so many businesses.

They can’t make any announcement without putting more spin on it than a BrightHouse tumble drier. Just this week, they announced that they were ‘confident’ of the right result in the ballot (we know why they were confident) and said that “..the overwhelming response of businesses that they had spoken to were positive about BID”.

‘Overwhelming’ Result?

When they announced the result, it looks like it has been carried six to five – hardly overwhelming, is it? They just can’t tell the truth, it is spin, spin, spin.

I don’t trust anything they say – I think the ballot should be scrutinised, then analysed. I think they should hide nothing. I think the Council should state publicly that they have voted yes on behalf of all their town-centre premises, after all, they are the largest tenants in the town centre and they’re hardly a business either.

Their policy should have been one of neutrality and only then would we have found out if businesses really do want the scheme. The Council could then have backed the result.

They have big backers in Moray College, who are in the scheme’s voting boundary. You would have to ask why they were included in the boundary in the first place. Maybe because they knew that they were going to back the scheme.

I asked Moray College why they paid educational budget money into a controversial town centre business scheme. They said it was to foster good links with businesses where many of their students go on placement – this practice has always gone on, there are generations of students who have gone out on placement in local businesses before BID came along, it’s all spin, spin, spin.

Now, after the dodgy Del-boy dealings with Tesco has been dealt with, we were told they didn’t get a vote. I don’t believe them.

Going on past record, why would you believe them. Come out and show us the proof. Show us everything about the ballot. After gerrymandering the boundary to suit their purposes in a manner Robert Mugabe and Kim Jong Un could learn from, they now want to allow Tesco in to join the scheme.

Tesco’s admitted problem is that they are not seen as a community contributor in the same way that Asda are, and by joining BID they will be able to say they contribute locally, whilst we all know that they don’t care about my, or anyone else’s business!

Why should they – they will be in it a couple of years, take money out for flood prevention measures and leave everything for others to do. They will show up for photo opportunities.

The worst thing about the Tesco debacle is that they want to join a scheme that is purportedly run to help small businesses, which flies in the face of everything BID and Tesco want to achieve.

BID say they want to help small businesses. Tesco want every pound, dollar and yen spent in their stores. You can’t have both. They also want Tesco to pay 0.67 % of their rateable value into the scheme – when Aldi, WH Smith, Brighthouse, Baggs, Subway ….and everybody else, pays 1.5%, and this is supposed to help small businesses.

There are small businesses up the High Street, like painters and decorators, or Sparkies who have a small administrative office up the High Street somewhere – and they have to pay 1.5 % into this scheme, yet Tesco – 0.67 %.

Council revenue collections

There is also the convenience of having the Council do their bullying and revenue collections for free. So they are accountable to scrutiny then if the Council is involved.

So you can ask what they’re up to under the Freedom of Information Act. Well you can, but BID say they are a private, not for profit company, so they don’t have to answer any questions. You can’t be both, whenever it suits you.

The St Giles centre management team have bet everything on BID succeeding, because it saves them from thinking and the town centre’s woes become someone else’s responsibility. However, our tenant’s meeting minutes show that the tenant’s of the St Giles Centre feel that we get nothing positive from BID.

Yet our management told BID and the Council that we were happy with it – the minutes show otherwise, again just spin, spin, spin !

I’ve also looked at all the businesses that have taken money out of the scheme and decided not to shop there.

Now I’m left with three problems here. My lease is up in the St Giles Centre in a couple of years. Now is the time for me to speak to my landlord and increase the length of lease. I won’t be bothering.

This business has been for sale for a couple of years now, if it doesn’t sell we will close in a couple of years time, rather than pay for other peoples business renovations and staff to sit in offices doing very little.

My other two problems are everything that BID say – and everything that BID do.

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