Business owners in the centre of Aberdeen will be balloted in March on the future of the city’s business improvement district (Bid).
Councillors yesterday voted to push ahead with the vote on the future of the initiative, operated by Aberdeen Inspired.
But at a meeting of the city council’s urgent business committee, held on the eve of the deadline for input from the local authority, members said they were “disappointed” not to have more information about the proposals.
The Bid takes in a little under £1 million annually from around 800 businesses within its footprint, which stretches the length of Union Street and from John Street in the north to Union Square in the south.
It raises cash through a mandatory levy from all firms based in buildings with rateable values – the commercial equivalent of council tax bands – above £27,499.
Yesterday’s last-minute decision from councillors could have derailed Aberdeen Inspired’s renewal campaign had they refused permission for the ballot to be held, though it was passed unanimously.
But as Aberdeen Inspired staff finalise the business plan they hope will convince business owners, with input from the Scottish Towns Partnership, the leader of the largest opposition group, SNP Councillor Alex Nicoll, said: “We are being asked today to potentially veto something, but we don’t necessarily have all the information.
“I have to say I am disappointed that others may have seen a document that would have been helpful for us to see before making a decision today.”
The council‘s chief city growth officer, Richard Sweetnam, pledged to issue the business case to members as soon as it is made available, since the council itself will soon have to decide whether to continue the Bid as it owns 14 qualifying businesses.
He added: “Officers took the view, that based on the information you have, there was enough for the committee to make its decision.
“It’s just a timing thing.”
He said Aberdeen Inspired hoped to issue its business plan on January 15.”
£2m raised for Aberdeen’s business improvement district in the last year
The Bid operator’s chief executive, Adrian Watson claims that in the last year alone, Aberdeen Inspired has secured £2 million in funding for the city centre.
In previous years, it has been key to organising the city’s Nuart street art festival and the international comedy and jazz festivals.
Council co-leader Jenny Laing recused herself from voting yesterday due to her declared interest in Aberdeen Inspired.
Meanwhile, fellow Aberdeen Labour Councillor Ross Grant is employed by the Bid operator as a senior project manager.
For the March ballot to be legally upheld, it requires a 25% turnout of eligible business owners, but also a 25% representation of the total rateable value to have voted.
A simple 50% majority is required for its renewal.
Ballot papers will be issued at the end of this month.