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Hampstead business levy rebellion continues as more refuse to pay

Shops have to pay extra on top of council's business rates

10 June, 2019 — By Tom Foot

Jimmy McGrath, the landlord at the King William IV pub, was taken to court

A PUB landlord is appealing against a legal judgment forcing him to pay a controversial business levy after it emerged several other firms have also been threatened with legal action for non-payment.

Jimmy McGrath, who runs the King William IV pub in Hampstead High Street, was ordered to pay around £6,500 legal costs last month after losing a court challenge against the “Hampstead Business Improvement District (BID)”.

He had told the court the scheme – which forces businesses to pay an annual charge that is supposed to be re-invested back into Hampstead – was a “scam” as it was not clear what the money is being spent.

He had refused to pay the annual levy of around £600 but a magistrate ruled he was not exempt despite the council and BID operators failing to properly inform him about the finer details of the project.

Camden Council said this week that 17 other firms have also received summons for non-payment, with four still outstanding other than Mr McGrath.

He said: “We know now that it is not just me that is going through this. You have to ask why this is happening, where is the money being spent? It is being squandered. I think the money should be paid back and the whole thing scrapped.”

He added: “Yes, we’re going to appeal, it is all in process at the moment.” Mr McGrath said that businesses were due to come together at the Hampstead Community Centre for a meeting after BID accounts revealed around 40 per cent of its income had not been spent on improving Hampstead.

Hampstead BID was set up in 2016 after a ballot of businesses. It takes a rake of each business’s rateable value and is supposed to use the pot to fund improvements to the area. The organisation has been run by private firm Primera since the chief executive, Caroline Goldsack, quit last November.

Questions have been asked about what improvements the BID has made to Hampstead since its inception in 2016.

Sebastian Wocker, who runs the Hampstead Village Voice magazine, which is campaigning against the BID, said that 40 per cent of the levy had been spent on improvements. The rest had gone on overheads, payments to managers and the council.

He said: “Only £99k is spent on something in Hampstead of £237,000 collected. Whatever way you look at it it is not efficient. Only 111 of 243 businesses turned up to vote. Had the remainder known what was going to happen, they would have turned up to vote.”

A Camden Council statement said: “Seventeen businesses have been summonsed for non-payment of the BID levy. There are currently four accounts, excluding Mr McGrath, where a liability order has been obtained and nothing paid.”

Marcos Gold, BID manager at the Hampstead Village BID, said: “The vast majority of the investment raised is channelled directly into projects, which are administered and delivered by a lean management team. Looking at the last two years, well over 70 per cent of the levy raised has funded projects and statutory spending – this is all very clearly set out in the billing leaflet, which is available on the BID website. The costs relating to the management of the BID are covered by the levy, but account for a relatively small part of the overall budget.”

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