Concern over new Buxton-business levy

A pub landlord has raised concerns over a '˜stealth tax' which could see Buxton businesses forced to pay extra to fund town improvements.

Vision Buxton wants the town to become part of a network of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs).

It would involve businesses in the town paying a levy - a small percentage of their rateable value - to be spent on a range of improvements for Buxton.

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However, landlord of The Queen’s Head, on the High Street, Ian Howarth, has raised concerns over what the scheme would involve.

He said: “We pay our business rates but this scheme wants us to pay up to an extra four per cent on our rateable value as well. What will we be getting out of this that High Peak Borough Council shouldn’t already be providing for us?”

The Buxton BID is currently in its early stages and Vision Buxton has commissioned company Mosaic to conduct a £10,000 feasibility study.

Should the plans be successful, the group will approach High Peak Borough Council for a loan of between £40,000 and £45,000 to cover the cost of a business development plan and referendum, which would be paid back from the annual proceeds.

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If voted in, the extra charge would be paid alongside the business rates and could generate £150,000 a year.

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Ian said: “I went to a meeting and was told if businesses did not vote in favour of the scheme the loan would be written off. That would mean taxpayers’ money has been wasted, which is wrong.”

BIDs were introduced in 2004 and to enforce the levy towns only need a vote of 50.1 per cent in favour. This would then mean all companies with a non-domestic rateable value of £5,000 or above would have to pay for the next five years to the public-private partnerships or face court action.

Keswick in Cumbria was the first to reject a renewal bid after five years in 2011, and since then at least five more towns have followed suit.

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Ian said: “People don’t know what they are voting for. All the questions in the survey which every business is meant to have had, ask if we want lower crime rates and more people visiting the town. Well of course we do, but at what cost?

“This is a stealth tax and Mosaic and Vision Buxton are going to have to do more than they already have, or provide a model which is more acceptable, otherwise I’m going to campaign for a no vote.”

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Phillip Barton, a director of Vision Buxton, said: “The money raised by businesses would pay for things the council is not obliged to pay for, such as Christmas decorations.

“I think people are confusing business rates with the new levy - they are two different things.

“This is still early stages and the majority of the feedback we have received from businesses has been positive.”

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