A crunch vote on the future of Aberdeen’s business improvement district (Bid) has been postponed due to the pandemic.
Mandatory levy payers were due to be polled in a ballot at the end of this month – but it looks to have been pushed back to May.
Aberdeen Inspired, the firm set up to run the Bid, has now requested the poll being facilitated by the council be postponed.
Concerns over the number of businesses still closed due to government restrictions drove the decision, amid fears owners may miss their chance to have their say.
All firms with a rateable value of more than £27,500 on their premises pay a mandatory annual levy towards the Bid.
Aberdeen Inspired 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.
And last night, its chief executive announced bills for the 2020-21 financial year would be halved and levies would not be collected during the 12-week extension.
Adrian Watson said they had been able to offer the firms relief on the back of “prudent” budget management.
He told The P&J: “It is unfortunate that we are required to go to ballot this year when city centre businesses are being challenged like never before.
“A ballot this month would not only have been difficult to run but also an unnecessary distraction at this time of unprecedented circumstances for our levy-payers, many of whom are fighting for their very survival.
“Holding the ballot in May, while still not ideal, will be better timing as city centre businesses should be re-opening and market conditions improving.
“We will shortly be publishing our business plan for the next five years which will demonstrate how we intend to help the city centre on the road to recovery through reinvention and revival.
“Aberdeen Inspired has remained a steadfastly vocal and unified force for the welfare and fortunes of our city centre and will be required more than ever as we embark on the road to recovery after Covid.”
Voting will now open on May 13, closing on June 24 before a count overseen by the council.
Legally the Bid must be renewed every five years.
The ballot requires a 25% turnout of eligible business owners, as well as a 25% representation of the total rateable value to have voted – with a simple 50% majority needed for renewal.
In 2020 alone, the Bid operator secured an additional £2m in funding for the city centre.