Thursday, 13 May 2021

Hampstead Village BID Ltd: Thanks For Your Money, now sod off and no, you don't get to vote!

 Small businesses are being denied the right to vote in the 2021 BID ballot

Dozens of small businesses, charities and other hereditaments have just had their right to vote in the Hampstead BID ballot suspended. Some 50 small businesses who voted in the 2016 ballot have now seemingly, at the last minute, been denied a vote in the 2021 ballot.

If the BID wins a second term, these small shops will be at its behest, but will have little or no say in the decisions and representations made by an organisation they did not have the right to vote for or against.

The question is, is it democratic or, for that matter,  lawful to disenfranchise such a significant component part of an electorate? 

And is it not unconstitutional for anyone who had a vote in a democratic election in 2016, to then be denied that vote for any reason, economic or otherwise, in 2021? 

It is one thing for the Hampstead BID and Camden Council to exclude a business from paying the levy because of its economic status, but quite another to remove its democratic right to vote. It's a bit like saying people in cheaper houses don't get a vote in the next local election. 

The fact these disenfranchised businesses might have their right to vote denied, with no notice, after having paid the BID in good faith for 5 years, is beyond jaw dropping. Surely, every business and charity that voted in the 2016 election, regardless of its rateable value status, must also have a vote in the 2021 ballot? The BID may as well tell them: thanks for voting last time and thanks for your money, now sod off! I'm not sure if it's closer to communism or fascism, but this certainly ain't democracy.

We asked Genny Fernandes, Camden's Business Engagement manager if there was any way to reinstate the voting writes of all the businesses who previously had that right. Because taking a vote away from someone that previously had it within a given constituency is clearly unconstitutional, quite probably illegal and certainly unethical. 

She replied: 'The BID regulations are set nationally and are clear that only businesses with a rateable value above the threshold set by the BID are required to pay the levy and so are invited to vote, in order that they can have a say on how the levy in spent in the area.


'Businesses with a rateable value below the threshold would nevertheless benefit from the BID activities outlined in the business plan, such as jet washing of the pavements and increasing the profile of Hampstead through programmes designed to drive footfall, should a successful ballot be undertaken.'


She seems to have forgotten, or is unaware that they will also benefit from the bullying, strong-arming and, in the case of PR, favouritism that has been a feature of the BID for the last five years. And if Hampstead is to be a Business Improvement District, shouldn't that be for all businesses. And ought not all businesses have an equal say? 

How convenient that all 50 businesses who've had their vote suspended, signed a petition in 2019 to remove the BID. Funny that. 

The truth is, the BID knows full well it was going to lose by a landslide and so gerrymandered the list of 'hereditaments' to ensure a chance of another term. This time, if it wins, it will only be extorting monies from medium and big businesses. So that's alright then.

As for the Vote No To BID Campaign 2021, unless Camden's electoral department decides to reinstate the votes of those small businesses who were, until now, permitted to vote — what would have been a landslide defeat for the BID, might now be a much closer run thing.

We have contacted Hampstead's MP, Tulip Siddiq, and her office tells me they will be looking into this. I'm hoping she will take the disenfranchising an electorate very seriously and ensure the 50 small businesses, many of whom are her constituents, will get their votes back.

The Ballot opens on the 21st of June 2021 and closes at 5pm on the 28th of July 2021.

The result will be announced on the 29th or 30th of July 2021.

Sebastian Wocker

Hampstead Village Voice

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