Hampstead BID: ‘There's no money left'

Chances of a refund from wound-up business levy scheme rated unlikely

Friday, 6th August 2021 — By Harry Taylor

Heath Street Hampstead

Heath Street

BUSINESSES in Hampstead hoping to get a refund from a levy scheme that is being discontinued look set to be left disappointed.

The manager of the Hampstead Business Improvement District – usually known just as the BID – said this week that all of its budget had been spent with an ongoing audit totting up the final accounts.

The system saw shops, state schools, charity shops and GP surgeries in the area faced with compulsory annual levy in return for spending meant to make the area more attractive.

Objectors, however, questioned whether they were getting value for money and an attempt to renew the BID for another five years was abandoned just before a vote on its future.

Jimmy McGrath, the landlord of the King William IV pub, had been taken to court over unpaid sums with bailiffs sent to the Hampstead High Street venue in June to chase up outstanding fees – even though it had already been announced that the BID would end.

Many shop and businesses had thought some money would be reimbursed to members but according to Marcos Gold, who has run the BID since February 2019, there is none left.

The BID’s final financial audit is currently being overseen by BID co-chair Philip Matthews, ahead of Hampstead Village BID Limited being wound up.

“All of the money that has been budgeted for has been spent,” Mr Gold said. “We’ve spent as much of it as we had.”

He said the budget for the past year had assumed a 95-97 per cent of the levies would be paid, whereas in reality it was roughly 70 per cent due to Covid.

The audit will show what money is outstanding but Mr Gold warned that anyone expecting huge refunds could be unhappy.

“There is this notion, and I’ve had a few emails about it, that people think they are going to get money back. We’re still working it out, but we don’t think there will be much – if anything,” he said.

He added that legislation meant that if it was less than £5 for each business, no money will be reimbursed because it is not cost effective.

Camilla DelMaestro, who runs DelMaestro by Camilla, a jewellery shop in Heath Street said the accounts needed full scrutiny.

“I was expecting this to happen. They have never disclosed to us what exactly they have spent on everything,” she said.

“It’s always been under these broad headings like ‘admin costs’. They have always been very guarded, it’s the whole premise of the BID, they take your money and spend it without telling you how.

“Someone needs to look at this, an accountant or somebody.”

Mr Gold will now go full-time with his work at the Midtown BID, covering an area around Holborn. He said he was sad that his time working in Hampstead is being brought to an end.

“If Covid hadn’t happened and in different circumstances it could have been different,” he said. “We were looking to do a lot of work meeting people and businesses and gearing up for a really ambitious year with loads of different projects.

“We’ve felt damned if you do and damned if you don’t. In different circumstances you could let your work speak for itself, but when you can’t do that it’s difficult.”

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