After taking on the role of directors for Hexham Bid in April it was our wish that time was taken to consider the options and have discussion about possible futures, our views follow.
The BID had come into existence through an entirely democratic process. Consultation was seen by the secretary of state to be more than adequate and indeed only two of the (largely duplicated) complaints were actually upheld in any way. There have never and were never any issues regarding the legality of the BID or how it was run, indeed at the BID directors first meeting it was made clear that anyone looking to further themselves or friends through the BID should leave immediately. This was never in doubt.
So we had a forum, with a mandate from the businesses to engage in work that would increase the footfall in the town and hopefully encourage more use of both none retail and retail. There were concerns but no more than should be expected from a group of community minded people giving their own time to set up and govern a business with an income in excess of £1,500,000 over 5 years.
A number of businesses had, very valid worries about increased costs at a time when many businesses are tightening their belt, some felt disengaged for political reasons concerning the responsibility of the proposed works by the BID, some felt the board didn’t represent them enough. These issues could and would have been worked through given the proper due process. However a small minority had no other motive than the destruction by any means of an organisation formed purely by and for the people of Hexham for the benefit of the people of Hexham.
To do this they stalled any progress on BID projects by initiating a series of false claims to the secretary of state.
Began a series of untrue and often deeply upsetting accusations. Picking out directors and staff for individual attacks whilst looking to encourage boycotts of any directors business.
Levelled further false accusations often provided by third parties with no connection to Hexham or the BID often accusing the BID of being run to provide further income from NCC.
Attempted to disrupt meetings and openly attempted to destroy the BID at board level by building support through fake news and bullying.
The anti BID and they can only really carry blame for the current situation, have left the businesses and people of Hexham with a terrible situation where the perception is that no-one involved in business can join the BID board for fear of vicious retaliation to themselves and their business, where hundreds of thousands of pounds and endless hours of time given freely have been wasted in schemes that will now never happen and where a democratic process has been destroyed by the will of a few people who ridicule those who would freely do anything to try and improve the offer of Hexham.
Much time and effort had been put in by the original directors on schemes that if completed would have benefitted not only the commercial part of our town but importantly the residential side too. Making Hexham a more desirable place to situate new business. Strengthening our current offer of existing retail and none retail business. Importantly making it a better place to work and live, those looking to relocate choosing Hexham, those looking to expand doing so within the town.
Many of the businesses we have spoken to about the BID and plans to re-draw the boundary around the town centre are in favour and it seems likely the re booting of Hexham bid could be successful however the fact is that not one wants to risk their business or open themselves to the harassment and bullying that openly supporting and helping with the BID would entail. Who can blame them?
When one prominent anti BID keyboard warrior is telling his group that a member of the previous BID team was “Standing there like a snipers wet dream he was.....fat cunt!”[AntiBID run facebook page: ‘Hexham BID discussion group’] and a paid employee needs to “fuck off and die”[Beaumont consultation meeting], you know it’s time to walk away.
The Northumberland County Council (NCC) has been instructed to terminate the BID arrangements and the current board of directors will initiate the process of winding up the company. The remaining funds will be returned to NCC, pursue any non-levy payers for both the unpaid levy and any costs incurred prior to reimbursing eligible businesses, in fairness to the businesses that have paid.