There were calls for transparency and a more robust management structure as Weymouth's Business Improvement District (BID) came under fire by its levy payers.

BID Vice chair, Ian Ferguson made it clear the meeting could not be called an AGM due to issues with the current framework of the constitution.

Mr Ferguson also announced BID chairman Steve Newstead, who was unable to attend the meeting, was stepping down and the board was looking for a replacement.

As the BID gears up for a re-ballot to determine its future, chief operations officer Claudia Moore said board members were consulting levy payers to produce a business plan and constitution that would hopefully foster trust with the board.

Weymouth BID’s finances came under fire last year after it was claimed the organisation’s costs were ‘completely out of control’.

Mrs Moore said the board was aware of concerns over communication and transparency and "dodgy dealings even" but the board was looking to the future.

Mr Ferguson added: “We have instructed an independent accountant to conduct a forensic review of the current financial status of the BID and the previous year’s accounts."

The BID has started hosting bi-weekly steering groups so business owners can be involved in the creation of the new business plan.

Mrs Moore said: "Some of the ideas put forward so far include a new constitution allowing levy payers to vote on election of directors and how levy will be spent."

She said the BID had six new board members and levy payers could expect complete transparency.

"We are building on what we have learnt since 2013. We need passionate, creative people to help us with that," she said.

Currently, BID board members vote on the appointment of new directors but several levy payers challenged the management structure called for a change in the constitution to allow them to vote directors in.

Business owner Roger Stockley said levy payers should have 'one man one vote' and get the votes that were promised to them.

Mr Stockley said the board must put a solid constitution in place or he would campaign against the renewal of the BID.

Mrs Moore said this was an issue they were looking in to but due to the BID's 'limited company status' it was not a simple process.

Mr Ferguson added having every levy payer as a board member was not 'tenable' and to maintain the security of the management it had been put forward that only 50 per cent of the board would be able to be changed per year.

Another business owner said: "You have to show levy payers how money is spent. We've spent a lot of money that hasn't benefitted us at all."

She added smaller businesses off the high street were unaffected by big events in the town and levy payers "wanted to see results."

Director Dennis Spurr said the BID hoped to divide the district into 'quadrants', each with their own budget and management – an idea which Mrs Moore said she hoped would 'take off'.

Mr Spurr said the idea would allow businesses to organise events and focus on their area but he stressed it required levy payers to work collaboratively.


The BID's footfall counters, which aim to monitor footfall in four locations in the town were also brought under scrutiny.

Cllr Francis Drake, who owns Antonio's Café, said: "The footfall counters are a complete waste of time. People walk passed my shop ten times and the camera can't pick that up."

He added the BID should engage with business owners whose tills were the 'proper way to count foot fall'

Graham Perry, who is involved with a Fair Trade shop on North Quay called the monitors "utterly useless" and called for the BID to undertake visitor surveys.

"It's great to talk about website hits but do we know why people are coming here," he said.

One levy payer said the BID's strategy was too focused on social media and there should be more of a focus on traditional advertising on trains and buses – a move which Mrs Moore said the BID was looking in to.

Business owner Roger Stockley questioned whether the success of the 'We are Weymouth' website could be furthered to generate income for the BID allowing levy payers to pay less.

But Mr Ferguson said this would not necessarily be the case and realistically: "If we can make it cost neutral, it would be more money to put into events."

He said the BID had looked at shifting its geographical district to bring in larger companies such as the supermarkets to secure more funds.

"If we can bring in some of the larger companies they can bring in a lot of money and we can take out some of the smaller businesses," he said.

Mr Ferguson added the BID was considering raising the rateable value of businesses who would pay a levy to assist the smaller businesses who might struggle the most to pay.

However, the meeting heard the move would potentially remove up to 190 levy payers from the BID which one business owner said would "disenfranchise people."

Mr Ferguson added that smaller businesses could still voluntarily pay the levy if they wanted.